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Published in Print: December 15, 1999, as Army Charts College Plan for Recruits

Army Charts College Plan for Recruits

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The U.S. Army unveiled a proposal last week to increase flagging recruitment numbers by offering college courses over the Internet for free to young men and women in the service.

The plan, announced last Friday at the Hispanic Leadership Summit in Miami, comes at a time when the booming economy and opportunities on college campuses are luring away potential recruits away from the military, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said.

Currently, soldiers can take college courses in the evenings or on the weekends, though many find they don't have the time, Mr. Boyce said. Courses on the Internet would offer students more flexibility, he added.

Soldiers could take the courses, all of which would be offered by accredited colleges, even while they're stationed away from their home bases, according to The Washington Post.

"The Army has traditionally been a place of opportunity, and now it is going to be a place where you learn while you serve, in addition to being a place where you earn benefits and save money so you can keep learning while your service is completed," Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera told the Post last week.

A second component of the Army proposal would help enlisted soldiers earn high-school-equivalency diplomas, Mr. Boyce said. Details of the program had not been released as of last Friday, he said.

Approval Needed

The plan still must receive approval from the Department of Defense, Mr. Boyce said. It was unclear last week whether Congress also would have to approve the proposal.

The military's best-known higher education effort, the GI Bill, was first adopted during World War II and provides college financial aid to veterans.

The new online-degree proposal is directed particularly at Hispanics, an ethnic group that enthusiastically participates in military life, but is underrepresented in the Army, Mr. Boyce said. He noted that Hispanic soldiers regularly re-enlist in the Army after their initial tour of duty.

Currently, about 7 percent of the Army's population is Hispanic; the nation as a whole is 13 percent Hispanic.

Vol. 19, Issue 16, Page 25

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