Be All You Can Be

the chronicle of higher education logoJuly 7, 2006 – Colleges that market to military students discover they present new challenges

Registering for classes is often a hassle. But try doing it Maryland University College, the continuing-education while fighting a war.Bridget I. Ruiz did. Working at a branch of the state university, were among the early research hospital in Egypt as a petty officer in the U.S. pursuers of military students. But in the past few years, the Navy last year, she enrolled in an online degree program field of providers has become far more crowded.in clinical laboratory sciences from the University of Although colleges see military students as a market ripe Cincinnati. But just as she started registering, she was for expansion, some observers believe that expansion shipped out to Iraq to conduct research on pathogens that may be limited. in the long run because the armed forces’ were affecting troops and civilians.

The desert base in Iraq had scant Internet availability. Ms. meantime, the institutions with high military-student Ruiz had to wait in long lines for her turn to use a enrollments are enjoying the ride.computer, and even then the connection speed was the Thomas M. Macon, chief executive officer of Grantham University, equivalent of dial-up. She was limited to 20 minutes per an online institution based in Missouri, says military session, which she divided between registering for classes students respond quickly when they find out that an and writing e-mail messages to loved ones.

But Ms. Ruiz never let anyone at the university know that “They have a lot of unique needs,” Mr. Macon says. her military duties were complicating her education. “Because I was so new to the program, I didn’t want to “Sometimes they have bandwidth, sometimes they don’t. appear to be a problem,” she says. “I didn’t want any Sometimes they have a place to study, sometimes they favoritism because I was in the service.”

Petty Officer Ruiz’s persistence in seeking out an education helps to explain why military personnel have ‘The Priority Is the Mission’Colleges used to serving civilians say that working with become a favorite market for colleges, and why providing military students can require some adjustments. As education to members of the armed forces presents students fall in and out of contact, professors and special challenges. More and more colleges are courting administrators must remain flexible and allow them time to military students to help fill their online enrollments, as the complete their work.military increasingly touts its educational benefits, including paying full tuition, and works closely with Petty Officer Ruiz was in Iraq for six weeks before being colleges to help service personnel complete their sent back to Egypt, where she was set to begin her education.

Students in the military often find online programs to be the Then she was suddenly shipped to Qatar.only way they can continue their education while serving their country. Even troops who aren’t in combat in Iraq or “I basically had to start school while I was in Qatar without Afghanistan may be sent overseas or from base to base a textbook,” she says. Although she was in Qatar, her throughout their careers, making it difficult for them to take textbook was sent to Egypt. Still, she never told her traditional courses. Instead of worrying about transferring instructor about her predicament and improvised through credits, they can study anywhere they can get Internet the beginning of the course, using a similar textbook she access.

Institutions such as American Military University, a for-profit online institution based in West Virginia, and University of Registering for classes is often a hassle. But try doing it Maryland University College, the continuing-education while fighting a war.Bridget I. Ruiz did. Working at a branch of the state university, were among the early research hospital in Egypt as a petty officer in the U.S. pursuers of military students. But in the past few years, the Navy last year, she enrolled in an online degree program field of providers has become far more crowded.

Although colleges see military students as a market ripe Cincinnati. But just as she started registering, she was for expansion, some observers believe that expansion shipped out to Iraq to conduct research on pathogens that may be limited. in the long run because the armed forces’ were affecting troops and civilians.growth will most likely be capped by Congress. But in the The desert base in Iraq had scant Internet availability. Ms. meantime, the institutions with high military-student Ruiz had to wait in long lines for her turn to use a enrollments are enjoying the ride.

Thomas M. Macon, chief executive officer of Grantham University, equivalent of dial-up. She was limited to 20 minutes per an online institution based in Missouri, says military session, which she divided between registering for classes students respond quickly when they find out that an and writing e-mail messages to loved ones.institution has a flexible online program.

“They have a lot of unique needs,” Mr. Macon says. her military duties were complicating her education. “Because I was so new to the program, I didn’t want to “Sometimes they have bandwidth, sometimes they don’t. appear to be a problem,” she says. “I didn’t want any Sometimes they have a place to study, sometimes they favoritism because I was in the service.”don’t. And if they’re going on a mission that’s in the national-security interest, sometimes they can’t say why.”

‘The Priority Is the Mission’Colleges used to serving civilians say that working with become a favorite market for colleges, and why providing military students can require some adjustments. As education to members of the armed forces presents students fall in and out of contact, professors and special challenges. More and more colleges are courting administrators must remain flexible and allow them time to military students to help fill their online enrollments, as the complete their work.

Petty Officer Ruiz was in Iraq for six weeks before being colleges to help service personnel complete their sent back to Egypt, where she was set to begin her education.University of Cincinnati online courses as she continued her hospital work. Then she was suddenly shipped to Qatar.

“I basically had to start school while I was in Qatar without Afghanistan may be sent overseas or from base to base a textbook,” she says. Although she was in Qatar, her throughout their careers, making it difficult for them to take textbook was sent to Egypt. Still, she never told her traditional courses. Instead of worrying about transferring instructor about her predicament and improvised through credits, they can study anywhere they can get Internet the beginning of the course, using a similar textbook she access.found in a library and scanning theInternet for information.

Her textbook finally caught up to her two weeks later, but the count is finished in a fewweeks.complications didn’t end. She was working a demanding job building mobile biomedical labs and had little time for “We’ve recognized that they’re really motivated, mature studying.

“It was real difficult to slip away,” Ms. Ruiz says. “The priority Some colleges find themselves attracting military students is the mission there.”

And there was a 10-hour time difference between her and even though the university has not pursued them her classmates. While much of the work could be done when aggressively.she made the time to do it, she was required to participate in live chats once a week.

“I just stayed up as late as I could at night to do my program, says the university is working with military liaisons homework,” Ms. Ruiz says. “Sometimes I had to get up at 3 to determine how to entice more students who are in the or 4 in the morning to do the chats.”

Ms. Ruiz recently returned to the United States and is now “We’re looking to put something together to meet their working at a base in Fort Worth, Tex., while completing her needs,” Ms. Graeter says.studies. Overall, she says her experience with online learning was good.

Choosing For-Profit Colleges

For-profit colleges have often found it easier than nonprofit between the armed forces and higher education. The ones to make the adjustment to educating those serving in program, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this summer, the armed forces. At Touro University International, an online allows soldiers to use tuition assistance money to take online institution based in California, about 4,000 of its 6,500 courses through 28 colleges. It has proved popular among students serve in the military. And more than half of the soldiers, allowing them to select courses from a wide variety nearly 11,000 students at Grantham University are in the of colleges and programs, instead of shopping around for armed forces.

Shenequa L. Johnson, a senior airman in the Air Force, is Although eArmyU is controlled by the Army, it is managed by stationed in Turkey as a health-services manager at the base International Business Machines. But the contract with IBM hospital. She recently enrolled at Grantham and is taking recently expired, so eArmyU is putting the contract out to bid courses in criminal justice, English, business management, for a new manager. The results are not expected for several and computerinformation systems as part of the university’s months.general-studies program. She switched to Grantham from another university because Grantham did not have any L. Dian Stoskopf, director of education for the Department of requirements for students to meet online at specific times, the Army, says that because eArmyU is going through a rebid making it easier to complete the courses on her own process she cannot comment about any potential changes in schedule.

“It looked like it had a good program that was easy to figure A. Frank Mayadas, director of the Alfred P. Sloan out, and it seemed geared toward military students Foundation’s grant program for online education, is chairman specifically,” Ms. Johnson says. “Being here, it’s hard to get of an eArmyU advisory group called the Council on Academic faxes and stuff out. But I was able to e-mail all my Management. He says he hopes that the next contractor will information.”

She says registering for classes and keeping up with her another’s courses in transferring credits. “It would be good for studies have gone pretty smoothly – for the most part: “I the Army to have a larger number of schools than it has right haven’t gotten one of my books because there was a bomb now,” Mr. Mayadas says. “This is a new world. It’s going to at the Istanbul airport.”

Following the success of for-profit institutions, more nonprofit For some institutions, providing distance education to military colleges are now seeking out military students for their online students was a natural extension of what they were doing programs. Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus, already. an online division of the university system, has only been activelycourting military students for the past two years, says Old Dominion University is located next to the Naval Station Ginny Newman, assistant director for military education at Norfolk, the largest Navy base in the world, so the institution Penn State.

The growth has been steep, she says. During the 2004-5 could take their courses along on submarines and aircraft academic year, 132 military students enrolled in online carriers.courses at the university. That number grew to at least 245 this past academic year, and Ms. Newman says she expects To meet the needs of students with limited Internet access, that number to be even bigger when the official enrollment count is finished in a few weeks.

“We’ve recognized that they’re really motivated, mature studying. students,” Ms. Newman says.

Some colleges find themselves attracting military students is the mission there.”without even trying. The University of Cincinnati has several students who are in the military, including Petty Officer Ruiz, And there was a 10-hour time difference between her and even though the university has not pursued them her classmates. While much of the work could be done when aggressively.

But Cincinnati is about to change its approach. Linda J. Graeter, director of the university’s clinical laboratory-science “I just stayed up as late as I could at night to do my program, says the university is working with military liaisons homework,” Ms. Ruiz says. “Sometimes I had to get up at 3 to determine how to entice more students who are in the or 4 in the morning to do the chats.”military.

“We’re looking to put something together to meet their working at a base in Fort Worth, Tex., while completing her needs,” Ms. Graeter says.

Partnership In Flux

More colleges might soon be serving military students through eArmyU, the most significant new partnership For-profit colleges have often found it easier than nonprofit between the armed forces and higher education. The ones to make the adjustment to educating those serving in program, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this summer, the armed forces. At Touro University International, an online allows soldiers to use tuition assistance money to take online institution based in California, about 4,000 of its 6,500 courses through 28 colleges. It has proved popular among students serve in the military. And more than half of the soldiers, allowing them to select courses from a wide variety nearly 11,000 students at Grantham University are in the of colleges and programs, instead of shopping around for armed forces.different institutions.

Although eArmyU is controlled by the Army, it is managed by stationed in Turkey as a health-services manager at the base International Business Machines. But the contract with IBM hospital. She recently enrolled at Grantham and is taking recently expired, so eArmyU is putting the contract out to bid courses in criminal justice, English, business management, for a new manager. The results are not expected for several and computerinformation systems as part of the university’s months.

L. Dian Stoskopf, director of education for the Department of requirements for students to meet online at specific times, the Army, says that because eArmyU is going through a rebid making it easier to complete the courses on her own process she cannot comment about any potential changes in schedule.the program.

A. Frank Mayadas, director of the Alfred P. Sloan out, and it seemed geared toward military students Foundation’s grant program for online education, is chairman specifically,” Ms. Johnson says. “Being here, it’s hard to get of an eArmyU advisory group called the Council on Academic faxes and stuff out. But I was able to e-mail all my Management. He says he hopes that the next contractor will information.”help the program add many more institutions. The sticking point, he says, is getting the institutions to recognize one She says registering for classes and keeping up with her another’s courses in transferring credits. “It would be good for studies have gone pretty smoothly – for the most part: “I the Army to have a larger number of schools than it has right haven’t gotten one of my books because there was a bomb now,” Mr. Mayadas says. “This is a new world. It’s going to at the Istanbul airport.”grow.”

For some institutions, providing distance education to military colleges are now seeking out military students for their online students was a natural extension of what they were doing programs. Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus, already.

Old Dominion University is located next to the Naval Station Ginny Newman, assistant director for military education at Norfolk, the largest Navy base in the world, so the institution Penn State.is used to serving sailors. As the university has ventured into distance education, officials have made sure the sailors The growth has been steep, she says. During the 2004-5 could take their courses along on submarines and aircraft academic year, 132 military students enrolled in online carriers.

To meet the needs of students with limited Internet access, that number to be even bigger when the official enrollment Old Dominion continues to teach many of its courses through satellite feeds and CD-ROM’s that provide lectures, video move again, though she is not sure where yet, to complete clips, and classroom demonstrations, as it has done since her clinical rotation for her degree at the University of before online courses were popular, says David L. Chase, Cincinnati. To do that, she plans to take leave from the Navy director of military distance learning at the university.

Navy ships are equipped to retrieve the satellite signal for the The day she finally leaves the military, she says, she will be sailors taking the courses. And when test time rolls around, in a much better position to get the sort of job she wants the exams are already stored on the ships’ computers so working in a research hospital. “It’s worked out well, really they can be administered by the students’ commanding better than I expected,” Ms. Ruiz says. “Thank God for the officer.

Although those technologies seem to work well for many About Grantham University:students, some are demanding online courses so they can Established in 1951, Grantham University is a private institution that complete the work on their own time – a term education specializes in educating the working adult student. Its mission is to officials call asynchronous education. Old Dominion is ‘level the playing field’ by making a high quality college education working to meet that demand, Mr. Chase says.

“We do not have a large menu of asynchronous programs at economic principles of Accessibility, Afford ability and Academic the moment, but we’re pedaling furiously to make more and Accountability. Grantham University offers military scholarships for more of that available,” Mr. Chase says.

The University of Phoenix Online has a separate division that Grantham’s courses are online and self-paced, allowing students to handles military students. Mike Bibbee, the Phoenix vice study at home, at work, on Temporary Duty (TDY) or from almost president who oversees that division, says all its enrollment anywhere in the world. Grantham University is accredited by the counselors are former members of the military, so they can Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training relate to the students as well as understand all the Council (DETC). For more information, visit www.grantham.edu or confounding military jargon.

“They understand how difficult it is to get your education PRI-2007-125 ver: thechronicle7706while you’re in the service,” Mr. Bibbee says. “And best of all, they speak the language.”

The Military Division enrolls about 16,500 students of 99,500 total students at Phoenix Online. Many of the military students are younger than the average Phoenix enrollees, who are often in their 30s. So the university spends more time working with the students to help them adapt to online education, which can be more difficult than classroom-based education because the courses often involve more reading and interaction among students through chats and discussion boards.

Few Private Colleges

Not all institutions with distance-education programs are marketing to military students. Many large private universities are too expensive for a majority of members of the military.

And even with so many potential military students, growth will be limited over the years, says Wallace E. Boston Jr., president of the American Public University System, which oversees American Military University. After all, he says, the number of military personnel is kept pretty constant by the U.S. government.

“It doesn’t grow much, even during times of war,” Mr. Boston says. “That number is pretty tightly controlled by Congress.”

For colleges that are seeking more military students, the best marketing tool seems to be satisfied customers. Yoram Neumann, chief executive and provost of Touro University International, says that most new students who are in the military usually find out about the university more through word of mouth than through the advertisements it places in Army Times and Stars & Stripes.

Petty Officer Ruiz, now that she is back in the United States, seems like a satisfied customer. She expects to have to move again, though she is not sure where yet, to complete clips, and classroom demonstrations, as it has done since her clinical rotation for her degree at the University of before online courses were popular, says David L. Chase, Cincinnati. To do that, she plans to take leave from the Navy director of military distance learning at the university.for about a month – time usually reserved for vacation.

The day she finally leaves the military, she says, she will be sailors taking the courses. And when test time rolls around, in a much better position to get the sort of job she wants the exams are already stored on the ships’ computers so working in a research hospital. “It’s worked out well, really they can be administered by the students’ commanding better than I expected,” Ms. Ruiz says. “Thank God for the officer.Internet.”