No deadline for colleges to enlist
- By George I. Seffers
- Nov 21, 2000
The Army will award a contract in mid-December for the Army University Access
Online initiative, but it will never be too late for educational institutions
to enlist, according to Army Secretary Louis Caldera.
Army Education Online is a $600 million distance-learning effort to
enable soldiers to earn college degrees and technical certifications regardless
of where they are stationed. Soldiers will use an Internet portal to access
numerous colleges, universities and companies offering technical certificates.
One contractor or contracting team will act as the portal integrator,
offering access to multiple accredited distance-learning providers. Firms
that have shown an interest include IBM Corp., NCS Pearson Inc., Arthur
Andersen, Computer Sciences Corp., PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Science Applications
Companies submitted bids in October, but it will never be too late for
colleges and universities to sign on, Caldera said.
"We may have one or more companies that are the integrators. But in
terms of educational providers, we want many, including some who may not
decide to sign up for years down the line," Caldera said. "We didn't want
this to be a traditional procurement, where we pick one vendor and soldiers
would have one choice of educational institution. They don't have to all
be signed up at once. Personally, I would like to see scores, if not hundreds
of schools, attempt to appeal to our soldiers."
The ambitious effort will begin modestly in January, with classes offered
at three Army sites - forts Bragg, Benning and Hood - that offer the necessary
infrastructure and personnel for a promising start.
"Some of the biggest challenges will come when we start looking at the
connectivity in our foreign and deployed locations," Caldera said.
Army officials and educators say the Army initiative could have the
same impact on American education as the GI Bill of Rights, a major factor
resulting in an educated American workforce. But Caldera is more reserved
than some in assessing the impact of the effort.
"The potential for advances in distance education were certainly there
long before this program was thought of, and would be there regardless whether
this program existed or not, so at most I would give us credit for hastening
the day when very high quality programs are available," Caldera said.