Army opens more virtual doors to education

Army opens more virtual doors to education

Soldiers at bases in Colorado and Washington next month will be able to enroll in online courses at 23 colleges, bringing to five the number of bases using the eArmyU learning portal.

Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Lewis, Wash., will join Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Fort Hood, Texas, in offering soldiers free online courses.

The Army launched the eArmyU program in January 2001. PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. of New York built and maintains the portal under a five-year, $453 million contract. Over the next five years, the service will offer online courses to 80,000 soldiers.

The portal provides registration, tutoring and technical assistance. Credits are transferable among the participating institutions. Through the program, soldiers can earn certificates as well as associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

Class monitors

To date, about two thirds of eArmyU soldiers are pursuing associate's degrees; 27 percent are pursuing bachelor's degrees; four percent are going for postsecondary certificates from dozens of certification programs; and 2 percent are pursuing master's degrees, according to Army officials. Among the most popular majors are general studies, business administration, information systems management and criminal justice.

'An educated soldier clearly gives the Army a tremendous return on investment,' Army Secretary Thomas E. White said. 'We are meeting our goals to create technology-savvy soldiers to support Army transformation, succeed on the digitized battlefield, enhance retention and help soldiers achieve academic degrees while they serve.'

Each soldier participating in the program gets a notebook PC, printer, e-mail account, Internet access and books, plus academic and technical support.

So far, 12,000 soldiers have enrolled. That number is expected to grow by several thousand when soldiers sign up from the Colorado and Washington bases, Army officials said.

To participate in the program, 16 percent of the soldier-students extended or re-enlisted in the Army to meet program eligibility requirements.

'We are gratified by soldiers' enthusiastic response to eArmyU and by the speed at which we were able to provide the education they demanded,' said Grady Means, managing partner of PwC Consulting's Washington Consulting Practice in Arlington, Va.

Soldiers who enroll at one of the designated eArmyU posts can continue their degree programs wherever they are transferred. Army officials said soldiers are completing classes from Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Macedonia, Singapore, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

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