March 4, 2010
Eligible servicemembers have the opportunity to further their education via Department of Defense voluntary education programs. Voluntary education programs cover a range of education services: high school equivalency, credit recommendations, entrance and certification exams, among others. The emphasis of voluntary education, however, is postsecondary education. Academic advancement, as put forth by Congress and facilitated by the Department of Defense, is an opportunity afforded equally to servicemembers and civilians. The Department of Defense Vol Ed (VOLED) program estimates approximately 300,000 servicemembers enroll in voluntary education each year.
Because relocation is central to military service, members typically fall short of degree program residency requirements or find that earned credits are non-transferable from one institution to another. Voluntary education programs remedy these problems with a variety of non-traditional education strategies, including distance learning. The growth of online education in general has dovetailed with military continuing education, resulting in greater opportunity for servicemembers. Active duty servicemembers can take courses while deployed, in off-duty hours, wherever they might be stationed, in pursuit of associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees.
A Note To All Servicemembers: Before anything else, servicemembers interested in voluntary education first need to consult with an education officer at an installation education center. Education officers and counselors will help assist with eligibility, options, financial aid considerations, and other details specific to you, your duty, and your education. Enrollment in a college program prior to proper consultation can result in lost financial aid opportunities, credit transfer problems, administrative issues, and like complications.
Voluntary Education Resources
SOC: The SOC - Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges - is a consortium of approximately 1,800 institutions of higher learning that enroll servicemembers in degree programs on school campuses, military installations, overseas locations, and via distance learning programs, including online colleges. The SOC works in conjunction with the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, the Army National Guard, and Army Recruiters. Schools that participate in the SOC program provide servicemembers flexibility in regards to residency, credit transfers, and testing credits. The SOC website provides information per branch and a database of participating institutions:
DANTES: The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support is the hub of non-traditional education opportunities available to servicemembers. It covers a variety of distance learning programs, including online education. The FAQ pamphlet on the DANTES site (
http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Dantes_web/DANTESHOME.asp) is a good introduction to its services. Further, DANTES provides three catalogs of program and course listings whose providers have agreed to administrative standards set by DANTES. These catalogs are accompanied by helpful, detailed introductory matter.
The DANTES Independent Study Catalog: Lists individual courses offered by regionally accredited colleges and universities.
The DANTES External Degree Catalog: Lists certificate and degree programs available from regionally accredited colleges and universities.
The DANTES Catalog of Nationally Accredited Distance Learning Programs: Lists courses, certificate programs, and degree programs from schools accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council and national accrediting agencies.
Branch Online Learning Resources
Education opportunities vary from one military branch to another. Again, be sure to consult your education center or education officer in order to gather information that is applicable and valid to your service.
- Army: eArmyU is a full-fledged web-based distance education program, with over 100 degree plans at regionally accredited colleges and universities. As of this writing, eArmyU is available to all soldiers, although services vary from soldier to soldier. The Army has automated many of its education center services on the site GoArmyEd.com.
- Navy: The Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership (NCPDLP) offers associate and bachelor's degree programs from participating colleges and universities. Military training and experience are considered for credit. Contact your Navy College Officer or Navy College Center.
- Air Force: The Air Force does not have a specific SOC program but does enroll all its Airmen in its Community College of the Air Force. Contact your education center for information on all education opportunities.
- Marine Corps: Marine Corps SOCMAR opportunities are available to Marines and their family members. SOCMAR listings are provided on the SOC website. Education center information is available on the Marine Corps Community Services website.
- Coast Guard: The Coast Guard offers College 101, an exploratory course for prospective students. Distance learning institutions participating in SOC are listed under SOCCOAST in the voluntary education section of the Coast Guard website.
- "Voluntary Education Programs/Department of Defense" VOLED 1/10 (http://www.voled.doded.mil/voled_Web/VolEdProgramScope-text.htm)
- Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (http://www.soc.aascu.org/)
- DANTES (http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Dantes_web/DANTESHOME.asp)(http://www.dantescatalogs.com/)
- GoArmyEd (https://www.goarmyed.com/public/public_earmyu-about_earmyu.aspx)
- Navy College Program (https://www.navycollege.navy.mil/dsp_ncp.cfm)
- Air University (http://www.au.af.mil/au/index.asp)
- Enlisted Opportunities (http://www.airforce.com/opportunities/enlisted/education/)
- Marine Corps Lifelong Learning (http://www.usmc-mccs.org/education/lll.cfm)
- SOCMAR (http://www.soc.aascu.org/socmar/)
- United States Coast Guard Voluntary Education (http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cgi/ve/get_started.asp)