YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Until this summer, sailors overseas had the perfect way to earn college credits: take a free, 90-minute test that most colleges and universities would accept for three to 12 credit hours.

The tuition savings alone could reach into the thousands.

But now, because of a move toward computer-based testing, the College Level Examination Program is on its last legs at Navy College offices throughout the Pacific.

Several of the most popular tests — including chemistry, biology and German — will be gone by June 30. All remaining CLEP tests will be gone by next March.

In essence, if you want to earn free college credits, you better act soon.

“The contractor that offers the CLEP tests wants to move to an entirely computer-based system because the savings in grading and administering the tests is enormous,” said Yokosuka’s Navy College director, Jon Richardson.

“It’s going to happen incrementally, but by March 2004, they will all be gone.”

According to Richardson, the contractor — the U.S.-based Educational Testing Service, which also administers college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT — is trying to work with the Navy to institute a computer-based system overseas.

But because of security concerns on government computer networks, there are several hurdles.

“The problem is that with military computers, you have all of the security and the firewalls, and the tests have to be taken through a .mil address,” Richardson said.

Some students plan on taking as many tests as possible, as quickly as possible.

“I’m not sure if I can pass some of the tests, but there’s no penalty for failing, so I figure why not?” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Lake, who was gathering study guides for several CLEP tests.

“If I can pass, I get credits. If they’re not going to offer the test, I should do it now."

All CLEP tests are free for active-duty military; there is a $56 fee for any civilians, retired military personnel or dependents who want to take a test.

There are two other options for tests that earn college credits, Richardson said. These are the DANTES program and the EXCELSIOR program.

The problem is that neither program offers many of the more popular tests.

Another option could become available for taking the CLEP tests via computer, Richardson said.

Several learning centers in Tokyo and Yokohama offer computer-based versions of the GRE, GMAT and other exams normally taken for entrance to graduate school.

“There is already a reimbursement program for sailors to travel to those centers for those tests, so it might work with the CLEP program,” Richardson said.

Colllege Level Examination Program

Exams ending June 30:

• Humanities (6 credit hours)• Chemistry (6 hours)• Biology (6 hours)• German (6-12 hours)• Western Civilizations I and II (3 hours)

Exams ending Nov. 30:

• Natural Sciences (6 credit hours)• College Math (6 hours)• English Composition (6 hours)• Principles of Accounting (6 hours)• Spanish (6-12 hours)• U.S. History I and II (3 hours)

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