|Distance Education Contract Goes to Pricewaterhouse-Coopers |
Distance Education Contract Goes to Pricewaterhouse-Coopers
By Joe Burlas, Army News Service.
Washington D.C. -- (ANS) December 14, 2000 -- Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera announced the Army has awarded a $453 million contract to Pricewaterhouse-Coopers to provide distance education for an estimated 80,000 soldiers over the next five years.
The announcement was made at a National Press Club press conference Dec. 14.
Before expanding to all active-duty soldiers, the initiative will first be tested over the next year with interested soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Fort Hood, Texas. Program registration at these installations is expected to start in mid-January.
Caldera first announced the Army vision for Army University Access Online July 10. This initiative will empower eligible soldiers to obtain college degrees or professional technical certifications using notebook computers and online courses while they serve in the Army.
"This cutting edge, cyberspace program will provide unprecedented educational opportunities for our soldiers," said Caldera. "It reinforces the Army's long-term commitment to investing in its people. This strategic alliance with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and its unique team opens a new doorway to personal growth -- allowing America's soldiers to earn post-secondary degrees or technical certifications online anytime, anywhere, anyplace, while they serve."
Soldiers signing up for the program will receive a free technology package consisting of a laptop computer, printer, Internet service provider and access to a technology service help desk. That laptop and printer become the soldier's personal property once 12 credit hours have been completed within a two-year window. Course tuition and books are free.
However, there are some limitations to registering and keeping the equipment, according to Susan Johnson, an Army education specialist who will become the program's oversight manager at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Dec. 18. Soldiers must have at least three years remaining in the Army, she explained. Additionally, those in the program must return the technology package to Pricewaterhouse-Coopers if the required 12 credit hours are not completed within the stipulated two-year window. Soldiers and their commanders must also sign a memorandum of understanding provided by local Army Education Services counselors concerning program requirements.
As part of the contractor announcement, Caldera presented technology packages to soldiers from each of the test installations. Those soldiers were: Staff Sgt. Jeffrey L. Matthews, an administrative specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Division Artillery, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell; Sgt. Christopher M. Jones, assistant regimental schools noncommissioned officer, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning; and Staff Sgt. Keva A. Wallace, food service specialist, Headquarters and Distribution Company, 4th Forward Support Battalion, Fort Hood.
Matthews currently has 44 credit hours from two separate schools. He plans to use AUAO to get an associate's degree in general education.
Jones has attended three semesters at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. He wants to be a teacher. Jones said his recent decision to re-enlist in February was greatly influenced by the opportunity to participate in the new program.
Wallace is currently enrolled in Central Texas College. She plans to complete her degree in food services using AUAO.
The consortium created by PricewaterhouseCoopers for this distance learning initiative features an initial set of 29 accredited higher education institutions. These schools include members of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges -- Army Degrees program as well as Historically Black Colleges and Tribal Colleges. The new contractor has also enlisted the support of several high tech companies, including: TurboTek Computers, Fiberlink, Precision Response Corporation, Saba, PeopleSoft and Blackboard. More academic institutions and technology companies are expected to join PricewaterhouseCoopers as the program expands.
"PricewaterhouseCoopers brings unequaled experience in managing large, global and complex programs as well as acknowledged expertise in technology development and in e-learning strategies," Caldera said. "Together, we will inspire educated, Information Age-savvy soldiers to succeed in the high technology missions the Army will be asked to perform in the 21st century."