The Navy is getting ready to kick off the second round of the United States Naval Community College after wrapping up the first round in June.
The pilot program allows sailors to earn an associate’s degree via online courses, and offers concentrations in military studies, cyber security and network administration, nuclear engineering technology, data analytics, organizational leadership, maritime logistics and aviation maintenance technology over the course of four phases, with courses starting in January 2022.
The final phase is slated to start January 2023, and additional professional concentrations are in the works for the 2024-2025 academic year.
Altogether, the second round of the pilot program is expected to enroll approximately 5,000 Navy and Marine Corps students, along with 500 Coast Guard students, according to Chief Mass Communication Specialist Xander Gamble, a spokesperson for the U.S. Naval Community College.
“The USNCC offers enlisted Sailors and Marines the opportunity to participate in world-class, naval relevant education programs,” a new naval administrative message said. “No tuition fees, mandatory course fees, or other course material costs are incurred by either participating students or parent commands.”
The community college effort is independent from other educational initiatives in the Navy like tuition assistance — allowing sailors to use those benefits for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, according to a U.S. Naval Community College fact sheet.
Stemming from former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s “Education for Seapower” campaign in 2019, the community college aims to improve the Navy’s intellectual advancement.
“Our mission demands leaders who possess the highest intellectual and warfighting capabilities in order to confront the many dangers of a complex world,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in his strategic guidance to the Navy and Marine Corps this month. “The institutions of our naval education enterprise will work together to develop leaders with the warfighting rigor, intellectual dynamism, and innovative creativity to maintain strategic advantage against competitors and global adversaries.”
As a result, setting up the U.S. Naval Community College aligns with the Navy’s overarching effort to establish a singular Naval University system and could offer educational opportunities ranging from associate to post-graduate degrees.
“We will invest in the Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval Academy, and build on the creation of the U.S. Naval Community College, to expand access for all personnel, ensuring all naval learning institutions provide world-class curricula, research opportunities and partnerships tailored and prioritized to meet our most pressing warfighting requirements,” Del Toro said.
The U.S. Naval Community College’s first pilot program launched in January 2021, and students could study the nuclear field, cyber security, data analytics, English, math, and naval ethics. Nearly 600 students from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard participated in that initial round of the pilot program until June 2021, and are entering a “bridge” program as they “matriculate into a degree-seeking status with the institution they were taking courses with,” Gamble told Navy Times.
The U.S. Naval Community College is continuing to fund their education, and they are being prioritized for their choice of degree program as the second pilot program gets underway, he said.
Meanwhile, students entering the second round of the pilot program will continue courses without interruption until they earn their associate degree, Gamble said.
Applications for the second pilot program’s first phase close Oct. 31.