Monday, July 16, 2007

Perspective: Soldiers earning degrees online

Above, center: 1st Sgt. Steven Franklin, the top non-commissioned officer for Company E, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division stands with two of many students that he has mentored into online classes at Camp Taji. An avid supporter of the Army’s free online educational programs, Franklin says, "In many cases, most soldiers join the military to go to school. Sometimes you need that extra push from someone else just to get started."

Juan Ramos hunkers down in Army barracks just outside Saddam Hussein's hometown, hoping insurgent fire doesn't interrupt his online biology class.

He chats via computer with a professor at Miami Dade College and tells fellow students in an online posting, "Well, I am not your typical guy or your typical Latino" before describing the gunshot in the head he survived and the inspiration he finds when he "breathes" Pachelbel's Canon.

Ramos, 24, an Army specialist who is pursuing an engineering degree online, connects the chaos of a combat zone in Iraq with the normalcy of hometown life in ways not possible for soldiers even 16 years ago, during the first Gulf War. Online education may be the most striking example; hundreds of colleges aggressively market to an audience of soldiers who can sign up for classes instantly.

That led to a doubling in the amount the U.S. military spent on tuition reimbursement between 2002 and 2006, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. Schools like Nova Southeastern University in Davie, with large online programs, have been particularly active in recruiting military members, with dozens of deployed soldiers taking classes in a given semester.

Read the rest at the Examiner