CTC among top five colleges for Tuition Assistance users

CTC among top five colleges for Tuition Assistance users

by Bruce Vasbinder, Central Texas College Community Relations and Marketing
Stripes Okinawa

Central Texas College (CTC) was listed in the most recent Military Times magazine survey of the most popular colleges and universities for military personnel using tuition assistance.

In 2017, CTC retained its ranking as the fourth most popular school among all military branches and served nearly 12,000 service members using tuition assistance, taking 26,742 courses. CTC also recorded a 78 percent completion rate for these students.

Military Times requested tuition assistance data on student enrollments, course counts and costs from all branches of the military including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army National Guard and Coast Guard. The rankings were then determined using an analysis of fiscal 2017 data from the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. Among the individual military branches, CTC is now listed as the third most popular school for Army personnel with 9,446 students taking 21,864 courses. CTC improved its ranking from fifth last year to fourth among Marines using tuition assistance with 871 students taking 1,818 courses.

In 2009, Military Times magazine began tracking the most popular colleges for active-duty students. The first several years noted a sharp increase in military personnel choosing for-profit colleges. Last year, eight of the top 10 tuition assistance schools were for-profit institutions. The current rankings indicate only four of the top 10 are for-profit schools. The rest of the top 10 is comprised of three private schools and two public schools including CTC.

The declining trend in service members using tuition assistance to pay for school continued.

The overall number of tuition assistance users dropped by more than six percent from fiscal 2016, to 473,715 students in fiscal 2017. Since fiscal 2014, the number of tuition assistance students has dropped by nearly 13 percent.

In the last three years, the two service branches with the most tuition assistance users have been the Army and the Air Force. Both branches have recorded a nearly 17 percent drop in tuition assistance usage. The Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, which have the fewest number of tuition assistance users, have seen usage rise since fiscal 2014.

Among the top five ranked tuition assistance schools, number one-ranked American Public Education, a for-profit school, lost more than 3,000 students between fiscal 2016 and 2017, a seven percent decline in its tuition assistance enrollment. Another for-profit system Bridgepoint, ranked third, saw its number decrease by more than 1,600 students, a 10 percent drop. Fourth-ranked CTC enrolled about 1,900 fewer students in fiscal 2017, a 14 percent drop from last year.

Recent changes relaxing tuition assistance rules for soldiers, sailors and Marines – but not airmen – could start to shift enrollment trends among service members. On August 5, the Army will end its current policy requiring soldiers to wait one year after initial military training before using tuition assistance. The new policy also eliminates a 10-year waiting period for soldiers between using tuition assistance for a bachelor’s degree and for a master’s. Soldiers will soon be allowed to go for the second degree in less than 10 years if they have completed advanced-level military training. In fiscal 2017, 98,259 soldiers used the benefit, down from 107,278 the year before.

The Marine Corps will also scale back its time-in-service requirement, from 24 to 18 months. According to the latest policy released in May, the new requirement is for Marines who “demonstrate significant extraordinary effort beyond the fulfillment of all assignments and normal expectations” at an O-5 level commander’s discretion.”

More sailors will also be able to take advantage of tuition assistance with recent changes to the Navy’s rules that went into effect June 1. Among these was the removal of the Navy’s annual tuition assistance cap of 16 semester hours or 24 quarter hours. Sailors can now access tuition assistance up to the Department of Defense’s $4,500 yearly limit. The Navy has also instituted an automated approval process for tuition assistance requests and is allowing sailors to use tuition assistance for certificates of completion. About 42,500 sailors used the benefit in fiscal 2017, compared to just more than 46,000 in 2016.

CTC offers both online and classroom options for military members with sites on nearly 30 military installations across the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. CTC also has sites covering Europe, the Middle East and Naval ships at sea. In addition to classroom and online classes, CTC also offers alternative education delivery methods such as hybrid or blended courses which involve a combination of classroom and online study, courses on compact discs and personal digital assistants. The variety of course deliveries is a convenient option for students in the military to complete their studies while deployed or at any duty station.

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