Soldiers take e-university by storm

More than 600 soldiers enrolled in the Army's multimillion-dollar Army University Access Online program during the first week—some even camped out overnight to be first in line to get equipment.

The program is designed to enable soldiers to continue their education online no matter where they deploy. The program eventually will be available to all Army installations and deployment locations and to officers, reserve forces and family members.

The Army kicked off the effort Jan. 15 at three locations: Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas. These three posts were chosen in part because much of the needed infrastructure is in place and the bases have large numbers of "permanent station" soldiers, as opposed to trainees or others on temporary duty.

The effort was announced in July. PricewaterhouseCoopers won the five-year, $453-million contract in December.

"I think it is truly remarkable that six months after the initiative was first announced and just over a month after the contractor was selected, Army University Access Online is up and running," said Susie Johnson, online program adviser with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

"The soldiers who camped outside the Fort Benning Army Education Center demonstrated first hand how much they want to be a part of the program. The staff at Fort Benning that came in at 4 a.m. were amazed literally to see hundreds of soldiers waiting in line to enroll," Johnson said.

Participants will be able to work on academic certificates or degrees free of charge. All costs—including tuition, books, lab fees, Internet access, technical assistance, tutoring and mentoring programs—are covered.

To sign up, soldiers must meet with AUAO staff members at participating installations and fill out paperwork, set education goals and determine program eligibility requirements.

Accepted soldiers are issued a laptop computer, a printer, an Internet service provider account and an e-mail account. Then, AUAO staff helps them register for classes via the eArmyU.com portal.

Soldiers are required to complete 12 semester hours during their first two years of enrollment.

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