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Petty Officer 1st Class Barry Ventura is a student at University of Maryland University College. The institution is one of six that will be represented next week at a traveling education fair at Yokosuka, Atsugi, Ikego and Negishi.
Petty Officer 1st Class Barry Ventura is a student at University of Maryland University College. The institution is one of six that will be represented next week at a traveling education fair at Yokosuka, Atsugi, Ikego and Negishi. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A Navy chief recently visited Bill McCormick, director of Navy College at Yokosuka Naval Base.

The sailor left knowing he was one class away from a bachelor’s degree, even though he’d never attended college.

And a petty officer second class turned out to be a mere six credits away from an associate’s degree, McCormick said.

“Higher education can be like a trip down the cereal aisle at a supermarket,” he said. “There are a lot of pretty boxes and decisions to make. It helps to have someone assisting you.”

With information on higher education, distance learning, testing, Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and more, a traveling Navy College Education Fair is aimed at helping sailors plot their course.

The fair, to run April 17-21, starts in Yokosuka then travels to Ikego, Negishi and Naval Air Facility Atsugi. It features an open house with counselors from Central Texas College, University of Maryland University College Asian division, Coastline Community College, Vincennes University, Thomas Edison State College, Troy University and Servicemembers Opportunity College.

McCormick said he’s seeing more interest in higher education in the service “due to sailors having a greater knowledge of what’s available.” Navy College in Yokosuka gave $2.5 million in tuition assistance and had students in 169 colleges worldwide in fiscal year 2005, he said. Another $1.7 million in tuition assistance has been given so far this year.

“In the past, an enlisted sailor with a degree was hiding out. Now we’re seeing enlisted people with master’s degrees,” McCormick said. “Some ships have many junior enlisted people with degrees.”

The Navy also is placing more emphasis on education, he said.

In 2011, all sailors will need a minimum of an associate’s degree to make senior chief petty officer. And, while the mandate won’t take effect for six years, sailors need to start planning now as associate’s degrees outside their technical field will be grandfathered in only until Jan. 1, 2008, and Navy officials already are attempting to avoid a last-minute crush of sailors trying to beat the deadline, McCormick said.

“The Navy has always valued education but now it is more in the forefront,” he said. “Our job is to pull the fear out of … education in general.”

Navy College Education Fair dates

Yokosuka Naval Base: 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. April 17, Fleet Rec Center.

Yokosuka Naval Base: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 18, in front of the commissary.

Ikego: 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. April 19, Ikego Kyoto Tower Multi-Purpose Room.

Negishi: 1:30 p.m.-3 p.m. April 19, Negishi Multi-Purpose Room.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. April 20, Hangar 183.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. April 21, Navy College Office.

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