On Columbia College's commitment to military education: An interview with Columbia College President Dr. Gerald Brouder


Published in Military Advanced Education, December 2008
Q: What is Columbia College's background in military education and, as president, how have you promoted this program area?
A: Columbia College has been educating military students since 1973. We were a charter member of the Servicemembers Opportunity College [SOC] and are committed to military education. Currently 33 percent of our 25,000 annual student population are military, dependents or VA enrollees, mostly attending our nationwide, evening or online campuses. We are also affiliated with all three ROTC programs and our students can earn commissions in the Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine Corps.
In the past 14 years, senior leadership with deep military experience has been embedded in the college. The vice president for adult higher education, four deans and 12 of 34 campus directors are retired military. The number of campuses on military installations has increased from eight to 17, with eCLEP and DSST testing centers at 12 military installations. Columbia College is also a GoArmyED and eArmyU partner; has joined the Navy's distance learning partnership; participates in the Air Force AI and Marine Corps AeX academic portals and has established solid working relationships with the Army Guard, Coast Guard and Community College of the Air Force.

As president, I personally visit every one of the 17 military bases on which we have a campus to connect with education officers and commanders and nurture our relationship. I am a veteran myself, and have a strong, natural affinity for aiding the military through education.

Q: What makes Columbia College unique in the benefits and programs it offers military service members?
A: Simply, maximum flexibility. Servicemembers may take courses in-seat at any of our 34 campuses, solely online or combine the two. All courses are delivered in convenient eightweek sessions and troops may start and stop as duty and home schedules dictate.
Our almost four decades of expertise in awarding non-traditional credit for military training and experience, our acceptance of all ACE recommendations for CLEP, DANTES and ECE examinations, our liberal withdrawal policy for military-related circumstances and our acceptance of up to 60 credit hours of nontraditional credit towards our 120-hour bachelor's degree programs demonstrates a flexibility not found at most educational institutions.
And the college is dedicated to affordable tuition. Our in-seat undergraduate tuition rates vary by location but are generally 20-40 percent below the military TA cap, and our undergraduate online tuition 16 percent below. We offer a 20 percent in-seat undergraduate tuition discount for military spouses [active duty, guard and reserve] and a spouses opportunity scholarship which is essentially a free first class.
Q: What online degree and certificate programs do you offer and how do these distance learning programs fit in with the lives of active and transitioning military personnel?
A: The college's robust online program, implemented in the fall of 2000, now serves 15,000 students annually through 19 degree programs including associate and bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice administration, psychology, human services and general studies. The college also offers online master's programs in business, criminal justice and teaching.
Q: What is the current placement rate and what percent by military branch does the school currently serve?
A: Based on a 2007 survey of recent graduates, the overall placement rate [employed full-time] for all programs is 79 percent. The overall placement rate for adult learners was 87 percent. The majority of our military students fall into this category.
Of the approximately 25,000 students attending Columbia College in 2007, 8,450 (33.8 percent) were associated with the military. The chart below provides a breakout:
Air Force: 430 students 5%
Air National Guard: 89 students 1%
Army: 1,913 students 23%
Army National Guard: 303 students 3%
Coast Guard: 246 students 3%
Marine Corps: 341 students 4%
Navy: 2,440 students 29%
Veterans (using VA Benefits): 2,169 students 26%
Military Dependents: 519 students 6%
Q: What are some of Columbia College's main goals in meeting the future challenges of online and military education?
A: We are committed to providing superior customer service while enhancing the relevance and delivery of curricula without any sacrifice of academic quality. We are also committed to embracing technology to allow degree completion at a distance, even when internet connectivity is unavailable. Educating military members and their families in today's volatile world is not easy. But Columbia College is committed to doing so with superior customer service and innovative curricula delivery while maintaining the academic quality that is the college's hallmark.