Thursday, May 17, 2012

Questions about Education for Military Service Members programs and services


What is voluntary education?

Voluntary education provides service members with opportunities to voluntarily pursue their education goals during off-duty time (after work) or during duty hours as authorized by the branches of Service. These opportunities are intended to be comparable to those available in the civilian community, regardless of duty location.
How can I participate in voluntary education programs when military orders require frequent moves?
The voluntary education programs are offered by each branch of Service through a variety of methods to meet the needs of the mobile military community. Service members can earn credit for higher education through traditional classroom settings, college-level equivalency testing, an assessment of prior military training, independent study, and through distance learning. The installation Education Center staff can provide detailed information on the various education programs, assist with completing required forms for study, and help design a specific course of study (i.e., degree planning).
What kinds of voluntary education programs are available for service members?
The Department of Defense (DoD) offers the following programs and services to assist service members in achieving their education goals:
Academic Skills Programs - These programs offer service members opportunities to update or enhance basic academic competencies in areas such as English, reading, writing, speaking, and mathematics.
High School Diploma - This program provides full reimbursement for the cost of studies and testing leading to service members receiving a high school diploma or a high school equivalency credential.
Examinations Program - This program allows service members to earn certificates, licenses, college credits, and a high school diploma, as well as satisfy entrance and employment requirements, with successful completion of tests such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT), and the National Teacher Exam (NTE).
Military Evaluations Program - The American Council on Education (ACE), under DoD contract, develops credit recommendations based on its evaluation of Service school courses, military training, and most enlisted occupations. Most colleges and universities award college credit based on these recommendations.
Independent Study and External Degree Programs - These programs allow service members the opportunity for academic advancement through flexible scheduling, little or no residency requirements, and nontraditional approaches to education, such as distance learning through broadcast video, recorded video, interactive CD-ROM, teleconferencing, or the Internet.
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) - SOC is a network of colleges and universities that has partnered with DoD to meet the educational needs of the mobile military community. SOC schools have minimum residency requirements, accept credit transferred from other member institutions, and award credit for military training, experience, and results of nationally recognized testing programs. To address the specific needs of different branches of Service, SOC has designated five individual degree networks: SOCAD (Army), SOCNAV (Navy), SOCMAR (Marine Corps), SOCCOAST (Coast Guard), and SOCGUARD (National Guard).
Postsecondary Degree Programs - The primary focus of DoD voluntary education programs is to enable service members to earn college credit towards an Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral degree. In many cases, the courses are offered on military installations or are available to service members who are at sea or deployed.
Military Tuition Assistance (TA) Program - The TA Program authorizes all of the branches of Service to pay 100 percent of the cost of tuition expenses for service members taking courses at colleges and universities. TA is not a loan that needs to be repaid, but rather a benefit earned for serving in the military, similar to base pay. Different eligibility criteria, obligation of service requirements, application processes, and restrictions exist for each branch of Service.
Transcript Services - Each branch of Service offers transcript services to track and document a service member's or veteran's military coursework and training. These transcripts can be obtained by the service member or veteran at no cost and sent to accredited universities and colleges for use in obtaining college credit for military experiences. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have partnered with ACE to use the Army / ACE Registry Transcript System (AARTS) and the Sailor / Marine / ACE Transcript System (SMARTS). Transcripts for Air Force and Coast Guard personnel are available from the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) and the Coast Guard Institute (CGI), respectively.
Loan Repayment Programs - These programs are offered to qualified service members to assist in managing college debts. After each completed year of active duty service, the military pays 33-1/3 percent or $1,500, whichever is greater, on the total remaining original principle balance.
Programs for Afloat College Education (PACE) - PACE offers Sailors at sea the opportunity to continue their college studies. PACE is free for the Sailor (the only cost is for books) and offers courses taught by civilian instructors aboard the ship or access to college classes using computer technology.

Where can I receive more information on voluntary education programs and services?
Installation Education Centers can provide service members with more information on any of the voluntary education programs. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits website can also assist service members in obtaining information about VA-administered programs. Individual branches of Service voluntary education websites are listed below: