CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan — (Sept. 15, 2004) -- Competition for positions and promotions is stiff in both the military and in the civilian job sector because higher education is no longer “an extra” that’s good enough to put someone ahead -- it’s a standard. Servicemembers on Okinawa have a resource to help them excel academically and stay in the front of the pack.
The Marine Corps Community Services’ Lifelong Learning Centers, located in base education centers, are an active duty servicemember’s first stop in taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the military.
Counselors at the LLCs start prospective students off by explaining the education process on base and providing initial paperwork including tuition assistance forms.
“Counselors use information on a data sheet to cater to students’ individual educational goals,” said Margaret Rivera, a guidance counselor at the center here.
After students fill out the data sheet, they attend the College 101 brief.
“College 101 is an orientation required for first-time tuition assistance users that explains the different types of degrees students can pursue and information on financial assistance,” Rivera said.
Following the orientation, the initial tuition assistance briefing is given.
“The briefing is required before using tuition assistance funds,” Rivera said. “It goes over
tuition assistance application and academic commitments.”
Voluntary withdrawal from a class, failure to clear an incomplete class within six months or actually failing a class means students must pay the program back. However, waiver are available to clear an incomplete class due to duty-related reasons or emergency leave, according to Rivera.
Tuition assistance for active duty servicemembers provides up to $4,500 per fiscal year and $250 per semester hour in addition to any course-specific fees, according to Richard L. Noe, deputy director of education at the Camp Foster Lifelong Learning Center.
Following the briefings, students pursuing an undergraduate degree visit on-base representatives from Central Texas College and University of Maryland University College.
“The students visit the schools to find out which is best suited to their needs and personal learning styles,” Rivera explained. “Some Central Texas courses are taught on video, so a student can rewind tapes at their leisure on their own schedule but lack the ability to ask individual questions.
“Most University of Maryland classes are taught in a more traditional classroom setting where students can ask specific questions,” she said.
After students view some of the available options, they must fill out the tuition assistance application and return it with an endorsement from their officer in charge or commanding officer.
“Tuition assistance is a program all Marines and sailors should take advantage of while on active duty because there’s a format to fit any schedule.” Rivera said.
Second term registration for undergraduate courses at Central Texas College, University of Maryland University College and graduate courses at Bowie State University begins Oct. 12 and ends Oct. 22. The first week is open to active duty personnel only, and the second week will be open to all students.