US army recruits get a shot at e-study

September 28, 2001

The US army has launched an online learning initiative as part of the drive to attract recruits.

The army's shortage of new personnel has eased since the devastation in New York and Washington, with hundreds of young men and women enlisting in the past two weeks. is part of the force's long-term strategy to attract soldiers. More than 70 per cent of high-school leavers are going on to college.

Sue Johnson, the army official overseeing the $450 million (£309 million) five-year initiative, said it meant young people would not have to choose between college and the military.

In a country where earning a degree can leave students owing tens of thousands of dollars, education was one of the top three factors in recruits' decision to join the army, Ms Johnson said.

The army regards a well-educated force as ever more important as fighting wars becomes increasingly high-tech.

About 25 per cent of soldiers make use of the army's education offerings, although this number could rise when is available to anyone in the military by 2003. Demand from as many as 90,000 soldiers is predicted.

Service commitments meant many soldiers could not always attend night or weekend classes, but Ms Johnson said online provision would help to break down such barriers.

Although it is available on only three bases so far, more than 8,000 have signed up for one of 2,400 courses across 90 degree programmes available.

Programme director Lee Harvey said each soldier was given a laptop computer, printer, internet account and books. Their tuition fees are paid.

Re-enlistment on the bases where is being trialled is believed to have risen by 14 per cent since it was introduced.

Soldiers must complete 12 credit hours of study in a two-year period. Those who do not successfully complete their course will be required to reimburse the army, Ms Johnson said.

A soldier will enrol with one institution but will be able to take courses from any of the 24 involved.

Participating colleges and universities have agreed to recognise students' non-traditional experience and previous conventional learning for credit towards their certificate or associate, bachelors or masters degree.

The US navy is introducing a similar initiative, based on elements of the strategy, for its sailors.

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