College work can help sailors make rate

Melanie Hammons

You lead an incredibly busy life. Work, family, and other important considerations compete for your attention. Why in the world would now be the best time to attend college, especially when costs are higher than ever?
It turns out there are several reasons why this could be the right time, despite the ever-increasing cost of higher education. Thoughtful planning involves examining the expense, but higher education is an investment in the future, one that can pay big dividends, especially for those who plan to make the military a career.
“The right classes can help sailors make rate even more quickly,” said Cheryl Pollock, director of Navy College on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.  “Your Navy job always comes first, of course, but college-level work can actually boost your chances for advancement.”
There are three colleges have offices at NAS Whidbey: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Brandman University, which is part of the Chapman University System; and Columbia College. Programs range from certification and technical programs to degree programs. Pollock said a sailor completing an associate’s degree earns the recipient two promotion points, while a bachelor’s degree awards four points.
Sometimes, though, circumstances can alter plans. What happens if health problems, high-year tenure, or any one of a number of issues force an early retirement – earlier than planned, at least?
“We live in uncertain economic times,” Pollock said. “That is a reality for everyone, whether military or civilian.”
Local college representatives on base could not agree more.
“Higher education is becoming almost a necessity in today’s society,” said Patrick Travenetti, director of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s NAS Whidbey Island Campus. “In the past, degrees were not nearly as important in order for Americans to earn a reasonable living wage. Nowadays, people with degrees and professional certifications are simply more marketable, and earn more money.”
Travenetti believes the value of higher education goes even beyond financial and career considerations, though these are important.
“We at Embry-Riddle believe that our university and the military share a common goal of building good citizens,” he said.
Actually, military personnel are uniquely positioned to take advantage of college opportunities right now. There are avenues of funding open to alleviate some of the expense. From military tuition assistance to the G.I. Bill to federal Pell grants and scholarships, there are several possibilities.
The Navy College Program at NAS Whidbey Island offers a wealth of information to service members. Not only is there information about the types of financial aid available, but also about the best programs to meet individual needs. Counselors can help suggest choices, a valuable benefit for those in the military.
For those who can’t picture themselves as a “typical college student,” there is no such thing any longer, due in large part to cultural changes, technological advances and the Internet. And just as traditional colleges are making their environments more friendly and accommodating, so too are the Navy and other branches of the military. Ask the Navy College Program Office about non-traditional learning associations and programs such as the College Level Examination Program, the DANTES distance learning program and the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges.