Starting college can seem like a daunting task, especially when you’re in the Marine Corps; that’s why the Joint Education Center offers a number of services to make starting classes easier for active duty Marines.
There are a few things Marines must do before registering for classes.
The first task is to attend the Joint Education Center’s College 101 brief, which happens every Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Headquarters and Service Battalion conference room.
“This brief is required for students who have not taken any classes in the past,” said Loretta Cornett-Huff, JEC Program Manager. “It gives interested students foundation, background and guidelines to earning a college level education while in the Marine Corps.”
At the brief, students will fill out paperwork to open a tuition assistance account, according to Cornett-Huff.
Once the tuition assistance account has been opened, Marines can then see a school counselor from the college of their choice to decide which class(es) to start with.
Camp Smith has representatives and offers classes on base from Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific University, Wayland Baptist University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“For students who have no college experience, we recommend taking general education classes first,” said Asoke Datta, Hawaii Pacific University Academic Advisor. “These are your basic English, math, social sciences, history and natural sciences.”
Once the Marine has chosen a school and decided which class to take, they can then apply for tuition assistance through the JEC.
“Marines should never register for classes before they receive the document stating they are fully funded for the classes they want to take,” said Cornett-Huff. “If they do register before they have approved funding for their classes, they will have to pay for it out of their own pocket, and we can’t back fund classes.”
When funding is approved and registration is completed, it’s up to the Marine to do the rest.
Although it may not seem likely, Marines can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree while on active duty.
“I’m graduating with an associate’s degree in business management in May, and I had no prior college before joining the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Tanesia N. Conley, MARFORPAC G-1 administrative assistant, who has been taking college courses since checking into her first duty station three years ago.
The JEC has endless possibilities, if Marines take advantage of them.
“Many individuals don’t take advantage of the free classes that are paid through TA,” said Cpl. Lisa A. Dean, Headquarters and Service Battalion Comptroller clerk who will be graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. “I am a prior civilian college student and know how it feels to pay off student loans.”
“We’re fortunate that we can take full advantage of the benefits of achieving an associate’s and even a bachelor’s degree free of charge rather than having a $40,000 student loan,” said Dean.
Marines are also advised to start out slowly and add more classes as they become more comfortable as a student.
“I would recommend starting with one class for a few terms and then taking more,” said Conley. “If you get in too far over your head and fail a class, you have to reimburse the government for the tuition they already paid.”