The DoD off-duty, voluntary education programs constitute one of the largest continuing education activities in the world. Each year about 300,000 service members enroll in postsecondary courses leading to associate, bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees. Colleges and universities, through an extensive network, deliver classroom instruction to hundreds of military installations around the world. Service members are have opportunities to earn college credits for learning that has taken place outside the traditional classroom through programs such as college-level equivalency testing, assessment of prior learning, assessment of military training, independent study and distance learning. Additionally, special opportunities exist for service members to enhance their basic academic skills through classes for high school completion, functional/basic skills and English as a Second Language. Many of these education opportunities are at no cost to service members or, as in the case of college courses, at costs significantly reduced by tuition assistance.
A service member's participation in DoD-supported continuing education programs begins with a visit to an installation education center. At these centers, staffed, funded and operated by the services, education officers and counselors present members with an extensive menu of options, provide details about specific programs, help members design courses of study and accomplish administrative tasks to ensure that service members receive maximum exposure to and benefits from available programs. The National Defense Appropriations Act annually provides each service with funds designated for off-duty and voluntary education.