10/11/2002 By Lance Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. —
Marines can now receive 100 percent tuition assistance to attend college classes. Ironically, despite the incentive, fewer Marines are enrolling in school.
Patricia A. Jeffress, the educational service officer at the Joint Education Center, says the drop-off in college-bound service members is a direct reflection of world tensions and the fact that service members who start classes might not be able to finish them.
She says fewer commanders are signing off on tuition assitance nowadays. "I think everybody's being a little bit cautious," she said.
But Jeffress reminds service members that many of them can continue their education even while they're deployed. Jeffress said the JEC is preparing to brief 250 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines on education opportunities while afloat.
"They can continue education while aboard ship," she said.
Unit Deployment Program and MEU vessels are staffed with "preapproved, qualified" college instructors, mostly Marine officers, she said.
The tuition assistance covers enrollment and classroom fees, including computers.
In total, a Marine can receive $250 per semester-hour and $4,500 per fiscal year, enough to cover tuition for a full-time class load at any of the five colleges and universities that operate on base, as well as most off-base institutions, Jeffress said.
Marines on active duty and enlisted reservists on continual active duty qualify for tuition assistance. Active-duty officers must agree to extend their contract two more years after completing the courses to receive assistance and reserve officers must have served active duty for two years or more to qualify, Jeffress said. Sailors are still receiving 75 percent tuition assistance, she added.
The Marine Corps' full tuition assistance may not cover all educational expenses, including textbooks and supplies, if a Marine attends a college where the allotment doesn't fully cover tuition. Those Marines will have to reach into their pockets, get funding elsewhere or tap the Montgomery GI Bill, Jeffress said.
Last year, the Marine Corps spent nearly $3.5 million in tuition assistance, with 4,264 students from Camp Pendleton taking 10,400 courses.
To receive tuition assistance, students here must attend a "College 101" course offered at the JEC. The course lasts 45-60 minutes and is offered every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
"This course is helpful for students who are lacking knowledge about college. It explains about benefits, tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill and different degrees," Jeffress said.
Jeffress recommends all college-bound Marines attend College 101, whether or not they're seeking tuition assistance.
They also need to fill out tuition assistance applications and ask their commanding officer about chances for deployment, a contingency that may force postponement of college plans, Jeffress said. They should submit the tuition assistance form the Friday before class begins, she said.
Marines can log onto www.Navycollege.Navy.mil to get an idea of what their military school experience will convert into for college credits.