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Teaching the Troops
The University of Maryland University College won a Department of Defense contract, expected to be worth $245 million over the next decade, to provide classes to troops, their families and Defense Department staffers on bases across Europe.
UMUC has held the contract since the end of the World War II, so the decision was not a shock, but the work had been eyed by others. UMUC also won the rights to offer M.B.A. degrees to overseas military personnel, a part of the contract previously held by the University of Phoenix.
The European postsecondary programs contract has a sibling contract in Asia, which UMUC also holds. Several other universities -- Central Texas College, the University of Oklahoma and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – also again secured multimillion-dollar contracts to teach European military personnel in specific fields.
“Serving the needs of the U.S. military is in our DNA. We are extremely pleased and proud to continue our long history of educating troops overseas,” said UMUC President Javier Miyares in a statement. The university began sending faculty overseas in 1949.
The main advantage of the contracts in an era where troops can go online for courses is that they allow college and university faculty on bases for face-to-face instruction. UMUC is also doing hybrid classes, which are partially online but can use the institution's physical presence across bases in Europe to get troops interested in its extensive fully online offerings, said Allan Berg, senior vice president for the university’s overseas operations.
“Really, the hybrid course platform has become very, very popular and it’s going to become even more popular,” he said in a telephone interview from Germany.
Berg said UMUC would be working with students enrolled in the University of Phoenix’s M.B.A. program – which he said was less than 10 percent of the value of the contract – to make sure that the students either can transfer to Maryland or are going to be able to finish at Phoenix. For cases like this, UMUC has “very generous” transfer policies for troops and Phoenix is supposed to have established a “teach out” plan.
The revenue estimates are just that – based on projections of the number of troops who enroll. The UMUC contract is technically a one-year contract with nine years of possible extensions.
Berg said the projections anticipate a decline in troops stationed in Europe. The existing European effort currently enrolls about 15,000 troops.
“Generally, I think there’s the expectation that our student population will shrink here in Europe,” he said.
UMUC is in the fourth year of a possible six-year deal to provide courses to troops in Asia, including South Korea and Japan, a region where troop counts may increase, Berg said. The University of Phoenix, which did not immediately comment, currently has the contract to offer M.B.A.s to troops in Asia.