[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 25, 2008

Education Fair showcases variety 
of post-secondary choices

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

       Personnel in the Fort McCoy community looking for post-secondary educational opportunities to further their careers -- both military and civilian -- kept representatives of several institutions busy during an Education Center Fair July 15 at Fort McCoy.

Photo: Dave Fish and Jackie J. Helgeson of Western Technical College explain their organization's programs and course offerings to a Soldier attending the Education Fair at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Dave Fish and Jackie J. Helgeson of Western Technical College explain their organization's programs and course offerings to a Soldier attending the Education Fair at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

      Dale Spannbauer, a Fort McCoy Education specialist, said the Fort McCoy Learning and Education Center initiated and sponsored the Education Fair to give the college/university/technical college course offerings at Fort McCoy a kick start.

      "We perceived a need on post for personnel to go to school to enhance their careers," Spannbauer said. "We invited a number of institutions that give the most credit to the military for their experience and the schools they attended while serving the country."

      Fort McCoy opens attendance at any courses held on the installation to all personnel, including those off post in the surrounding or neighboring communities, who meet the requirements. Spannbauer said this benefits everyone, and helps support the Army Family Covenant and the Army Community Covenant, where the installation develops a partnership with surrounding communities to provide mutual educational benefits.

      "It would be hard to run a course with students only from Fort McCoy, Sparta or Tomah," Spannbauer said. "We need each other to make it work."

      "More community involvement means more choices, and it will be better for everybody in the long run," he added.

      Spannbauer said this will help everyone reach their full educational potential. It also will help improve the educational levels in the local communities and boost the number of highly qualified people in the local work force. Studies show personnel who attend and graduate from post-secondary courses have a better potential for higher-level and higher-paying careers, he said.

      Representatives from several La Crosse institutions, Western Technical College (WTC), Viterbo University and the University of Wisconsin (UW)-La Crosse, were on hand to tell about the course offerings they could provide students.

      Representatives of all three institutions noted the opportunities for both on-site and remote-location classes, as well as opportunities to take courses online.

      Jackie J. Helgeson, an educational enhancement specialist for WTC, said WTC can offer a blended program, including both on-site and online courses.

      WTC has offered many two-year programs that lead to associate degrees, such as criminal justice and public safety and also the health professions, Helgeson said.

      "We have one of the largest populations of veterans in the region," Helgeson said. "Our programs are getting better and better."

      Debra Anderson of Viterbo's School of Adult Learning said the university has an agreement with WTC to allow students who graduate with a two-year degree in selected programs to transfer the credits in whole to pursue a four-year degree at Viterbo.

      Annette Valeo, the UW-La Crosse Outreach Program specialist, said UW-La Crosse also may be able to give military personnel educational credit for their military experience and schooling and any prior post-secondary education. It also has an agreement with WTC to accept some two-year programs, such as the early childhood program, for personnel seeking four-year degrees.

      UW-La Crosse is making more of an effort to bring its courses to the communities. The institution has held courses at Fort McCoy upon request and hopes to continue to do so in the future.

      "We know people have a lot of time constraints working Monday to Friday," Valeo said. "We can offer them courses one weekend a month. We also can offer hybrid courses of instruction, including courses held online and on site."

      Spannbauer said the choices to attend courses online or at sites that are closer and more convenient than college campuses also can help personnel reduce travel costs due to the higher cost of gasoline and also reduce travel time.

      "Online courses are the wave of the future," Spannbauer said. "Personnel can do the work at their convenience on their home computers or other available computers."

      Representatives from UW-Stout, which offers courses both on-site and online were at the Education Fair.

      Several institutions that offer only online courses attended the Education Fair, as well.

      Spannbauer said the important thing to remember about online, as well as all college courses, is to ensure the courses are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.

      Spannbauer also said the Education and Learning Center can help personnel who are out of school and not high-school graduates or those who would like to get their General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

      Some post-secondary courses also may be open to high-school students, as well.

      Military personnel may be eligible for financial tuition assistance under federal and state veterans programs, he said.

      All personnel who want more information about post-secondary educational opportunities through Fort McCoy can contact the Fort McCoy Education and Learning Center at (608) 388-7311 or Spannbauer at (608) 388-5072. The Education and Learning Center can provide counseling assistance to help personnel find the best match for their prior experience and schooling.     


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