FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska (July 20, 2012) -- Fort Wainwright's Education Center hosted an outside education fair last week under a large tent set up just outside the doors of the post library.The five-hour-long event started at 10 a.m. and was open to all soldiers, families, DoD civilians and retirees, providing a multitude of opportunities for support in planning their educational goals.Gearldine Tuck, Education Services officer, said the education fair turned out to be a great success.Representatives from over 25 colleges, universities and organizations were on hand providing helpful information and answers to questions on educational progression programs, scholarships, tuition assistance and much more.
Tuck said around 500 visitors came through to find what education opportunities were available and to speak with representatives from the different schools."We had a very good turnout, with a steady flow the whole time," Tuck said. "There were many soldiers looking to take advantage of the Tuition Assistance program."The TA program is a financial assistance program provided to soldiers seeking to advance their professional and personal education goals while serving in the Army."Right now, with 100 percent TA, we pay $250 per credit hour," Tuck said. "As long as they [Soldiers] are on good standards, and their commander signs off on their tuition assistance paperwork, they can take college classes on their off-duty time."The program is also available for those Soldiers who need to complete their high school diplomas or who want to complete a certificate program. Details on what the TA program is and how it can benefit a soldier can be found online at https://www.goarmyed.com/public/public_tuition_assistance_policies.aspx.With education being an important factor in any job market, it always comes at a price. For some joining the military, financial help in paying off loans is an incentive."You find more and more soldiers coming into the Army with degrees whether they are enlisted or officers," Tuck said, "and so many students completing college find themselves with debt accumulated from student loans."An attractive reason to join the military is for the Loan Repayment Program. The LRA is a special enlistment incentive offered to qualified applicants when they join the Army. Under the LRP, the Army repays one-third of a school loan for each year of a soldier's full-time duty service.Whether just starting on an educational path, working to finish a present degree program or looking to build on a past degree, there are a wide variety of organizations available to offer their help.Spc. Brian Jennings, 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade (Alaska) came to the education fair to find out what opportunities there were for him and his present educational status."There are a lot of good colleges to choose from here." Jennings said. Presently, Jennings holds a bachelors degree in Aeronautical Engineering and has been a Soldier with over eight years in the Army. "I'm looking to further my degree -something to expand on," Jennings said. Though he may not stay in the aeronautical field, with his accumulated degree credits and other classes he may have an opportunity to use his credits towards other degrees.Looking over the rows of tables and pamphlets of various university and college representatives, Jennings said he hopes to gain a little insight on how he should proceed. Like many others, he uses the Tuition Assistance program in order to meet education goals while he serves in the Army. Taking advantage of the financial support helps him professionally whether at his present job or to prepare for a future career beyond the Army.Soldiers can also take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill which is available to them during active duty and after retirement or honorable separation. It can be used as reimbursement of tuition fees to a school and can even make housing and other payments directly to the Soldier. The percentage received is determined by the length of active duty service and the school being attended. Soldiers who are residential students at a public institution of higher learning can have all tuition and fees reimbursed.Those attending private or foreign schools have tuition and fees reimbursed to $17,500 per academic year. This amount will go up to $18,077.50 starting Aug. 1 of this year. There is also reimbursement for on-the-job apprenticeship and vocational flight-training programs. To find out more about the Post-9/11 GI Bill go to http://gibill.va.gov/."We encourage all the service members to take advantage of their education opportunities," Tuck said. The Education Center is open from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. for walk-ins on Fort Wainwright. Call (907) 353-7486 to find out more or to make an appointment with an education specialist. Presently, a new Education Center is being renovated in the old School Age Services, Building 4391.Scheduled to open sometime before the end of the year, Tuck said she looks forward to the next education fair to be held at the new facility and keep providing those who serve the educational benefits they deserve.