Marine Corps Base Hawaii --
When tuition assistance was reinstated in April, the rules and regulations changed as education service officers worked together to figure out the best plan for service members and their education. The biggest change has been spending. Each education center has limited funding available, depending on the number of students.
“The major challenge is having less money,” said Craig Lockwood, the lead education specialist at the Education Center. “I have been here for seven years and we never had a cap on spending. Now every base has a cap, and each base has to stay under that cap. Now more then ever, Marines need to be very serious with their education.”
The Education Center has to maintain a balance between wanting to get Marines educated, which is their number one mission, and protecting government money.
Lockwood said the best plan for students, especially those who are first-time college students, is to start with one course and understand the policies.
“Tuition assistance is a privilege, not a guarantee,” Lockwood said. “A Marine’s chain of command can deny it for any justifiable reason, such as upcoming deployments. So my advice is don’t take on more than you can handle, since taking classes as a Marine is difficult.
“You are a full-time service member,” he added. “There’s a lot on your plate like training, exercises, and deployments. Taking classes on top of that can be a huge workload. But if you think of it like a rock, taking one class at a time is like ‘chipping away’ at it until you have your degree.”
All Marines have some college credit, even if they never attended college, because of their military service. Training at boot camp, combat training, school of infantry and military occupational specialty school all give Marines college credits.
“It all adds up,” Lockwood said. “The key is to pull it all together.”
Marines can also earn credit through College-Level Examination Program, which is a credit-by-exam program.
“You take an exam, pass the test and earn college credit,” Lockwood said. “It’s a really great program, ideal for military members.”
The major year-long addition to tuition assistance is electronic tuition assistance, which means students can file their application form on their personal computers instead of bringing the hard copy to the Education Center. Marines can also be approved for tuition assistance online.
Marine Corps bases in Okinawa, Japan, and Hawaii will be the last ones to make the change. Mimi Ogiba, the senior education technician at the Education Center, said this change should take place sometime in September.
Lockwood said every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. the Education Center conducts hourlong tuition assistance briefs. If you are using tuition assistance for the first time, you must attend the brief.
The Education Center is hosting an education fair on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Mokapu Mall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Academic advisors from more than 15 on-base colleges will attend, and attendees can learn more about tuition assistance, as well as other education concerns. Service members, veterans, Department of Defense civilians and families are eligible to attend.
Ogiba said she has seen many Marines get their degrees by “chipping away at the stone.”
“I’ve been here for 16 years,” Ogiba said. “I know of a Marine who completed his master’s degree one class at a time and now has a good job in the civilian world. There are many like this, who received their degrees taking one step at a time.”