By Bardia Khajenoori
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart
Benjamin Franklin once quipped that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” And in the same Panzer Kaserne building as two financial institutions, Stuttgart community members can find the garrison’s Education Center.
“Our whole goal is to promote lifelong learning,” said Jerry Gibbons, the center’s chief. “We’re here to help everybody, whether they had a hard time in high school and are trying to unravel the mystery of how to get started with college, to people who already have advanced degrees and need to get some other certification, or just want to take a class out of personal interest.”
Open to anyone with Status of Forces Agreement/SOFA status (i.e., Active Duty, retirees, civilians, and family members), the Education Center serves as an “impartial broker” for clients on what options are available, how to finance them, and how to reach educational goals—or simply offer guidance to those who don’t have goals just yet.
“You can go into counseling with just a desire to try something, without being sure of what career path or educational options you should pursue,” said Gibbons.
For people who don’t know where to start, they offer interactive surveys which determine possible career paths based on identified skills and interests, and can even present economic outlooks for a particular type of job. On the other hand, degree planning or recommendations on professional certifications is available for clients with more specifically defined objectives.
The center celebrated National Education Week from November 16-20 with a series of mostly virtual work-shops and information sessions sponsored by its four on-site institutions—Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Oklahoma, Central Texas College, and the University of Maryland Global Campus.
But attending classes is far from the only way people can earn college credit through the Education Center. Credit-by-exam options such as CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) and DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) are widely accepted by colleges and can save time and money toward a degree. Active Duty personnel are even eligible to have initial attempts covered at no cost, and tens of thousands take the exams each year.
“It’s one of those ‘secrets’ that some people aren’t aware of, and we also have free training materials for them,” said Gibbons.
Home to a National Test Center, the Education Center offers a wide array of testing aside from the CLEP, ranging from examinations for language skills, graduate school entry, or industry certifications such as Project Management Professional. Naturally, testing for military personnel, such as the ASVAB/AFCT, is also available.
“Even though, right now, in-person classes are dormant, we’ve still got online classes and counselors available through safe methods, whether it’s phone, email, or video conference,” said Gibbons. “Education week isn’t just a week—it’s 52 weeks a year. Whether you like to read classics, the newspaper, or a professional journal, you’re hopefully constantly learning. That’s what we’re here to support.”