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Cal U offers military personnel, families discounted online rates

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 12:06 a.m.

Serving in Iraq in 2009, Robert Prah was an intelligence officer by day and a California University of Pennsylvania student by night.

The Smithton resident took two online courses as he served as a Pennsylvania National guardsman just north of Baghdad.

“We worked 12 hours and the down time was ours,” Prah said. “I would spend my time at night doing homework.”

Prah took master's degree-level courses in law and intelligence studies.

“It had application at the time,” said Prah, who holds a master's degree in law and public policy with a concentration in homeland security.

“I am a testament to the program's success.”

That's why Prah applauded Cal U's two-year pilot program, which will reduce the tuition rate for active-duty service personnel and their families who enroll in 100 percent online degree programs.

Under the program, the cost of undergraduate tuition for active-duty armed services personnel, their spouses and eligible dependents will match the Military Tuition Assistance reimbursement rate offered by the U.S. military.

The reimbursement rate is $250 per credit for undergraduate programs. The per-credit price is otherwise $276.

The Cal U Council of Trustees approved the program this week.

Also under the plan, active-duty service personnel and their family members who enroll in graduate programs will pay about 90 percent of the in-state tuition rate, or $399 per credit.

The Cal U Global Online pilot program is one of six “flexible tuition” initiatives approved Jan. 24 by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors.

The board oversees 14 state-owned universities, including Cal U.

For each of the programs, the board required approval by each university's council of trustees prior to implementation.

Cal U is a provider for GoArmyEd, the U.S. Army's portal for on-line education.

“I think it will benefit the students in being more competitive with tuition rates,” said Prah, Cal U director of veterans affairs.

“It helps them because they are paying out of pocket. And it gives them additional options for online courses, different options that are not offered at all institutions.”

Army National Guard Capt. Scott Croyle completed his undergraduate studies on campus. But he received his master's degree in 2010 in legal studies with a concentration on homeland security while serving with the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery at the army base in New Castle.

“It would reduce the need to take out loans,” Croyle said.

“If you're active duty and do not want to burn a part of your G.I. Bill, you'd have out-of-pocket expenses.”

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 – popularly known as the G.I. Bill – provides myriad benefits for military veterans, including 36 months of education tuition credits.

“The bottom line is there are a few big universities across the nation that are on line that match this,” Croyle said. “This puts Cal U equal to them. It makes Cal U formidable.”

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