College classes soon will be offered to servicemembers on the ground in Iraq, broadening an education program that has seen courses made available in Afghanistan and other Central Command nations.

According to school officials, the University of Maryland University College has been awarded a Pentagon contract to expand to Iraq the classes it already offers in the region.

The contract runs for five years, with additional options to extend the contract a year at a time.

“We are pleased to be able to continue our tradition of delivering a quality education to servicemembers stationed in this critical portion of the world stage,” UMUC President Susan C. Aldridge said in the statement.

School officials will travel to Iraq this summer to scout locations and work with the military commands to identify course locations.

If all goes well, officials said, the first classes could be offered as early as Aug. 1.

“We are ready to move at a moment’s notice,” said Allan J. Berg, director of UMUC Europe. “We have a history of success in delivering education programs to our troops, even in the most challenging environments. …”

Under a previous amendment to existing contracts, UMUC already has expanded its offerings to include other CENTCOM countries, including Afghanistan, Djibouti and Qatar. Overall, UMUC has some 120 locations overseas. Other institutions, including Central Texas College, have offered downrange courses through their Europe branches.

But servicemembers in Iraq have largely relied on online courses to pursue their educations.

In some battalions, officials have estimated, as much as 20 percent of troops are taking some sort of college class.

Some use the military’s education program and work through Troy University or UMUC, two schools that have long-established college programs in military bases abroad.

Some are doing it independent of the military, using their Montgomery GI Bill benefits to pay for online classes that cater to part-time students.

And in at least one other case, the State University of New York has employed servicemembers already in Iraq to teach basic college courses on the U.S. base near Tikrit.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now