Military Students Let Nothing Stand Between Them and Their Degrees

By Chris Hassan
Posted May 29, 2013 10:00 AM

Many service members make time for education.
Many service members make time for education.

Many students will face challenges on the way to earning a college degree. Whether these individuals have responsibilities outside of academia or find specific courses difficult, it is important for them to not give up on their educational goals. Students who doubt their ability to earn a bachelor's or master's degree should look to the many service members who make time for college courses, despite the fact that they are in a war zone.

Overcoming Enormous Distractions

Students of all ages are known to rely on the occasional excuse when they fail to hand in an assignment on time or fail a test. When Thomas Saenz, a Navy lieutenant serving in Afghanistan, was enrolled in an online graduate program through the University of Southern California (USC), he missed a class he was required to be a part of, according to The Associated Press (AP). However, Saenz had a very good excuse for missing class - a suicide bomber had blown himself up close to NATO's headquarters in Kabul. A total of six civilians were killed in the attack.

Still, despite all that was happening around him, the dedicated student was concerned about how missing the class would affect his grade. Naturally, Saenz had nothing to worry about.

"I told my class if Thomas can get his homework done on time then I don't think there are any excuses for the rest of you all," Frank Alvidrez, a USC professor, told the AP. "And he pulled an `A.' He was one of the top 10 percent."

Making Academic Dreams a Reality

Saenz, who recently earned a master's degree in engineering, certainly fits the bill for a nontraditional student. Not only was the 33-year-old taking classes in a war zone, but he is also a father of two.

Currently, the Obama Administration is urging colleges and universities to find ways to help service members like Saenz advance their education while in the military, the AP reports.

The Pennsylvania State University's (Penn State) World Campus is among the online education options many service members take advantage of when they want to learn, but cannot attend on-campus classes. During the 2012-2013 academic year, 2,334 military and veteran students were enrolled in World Campus courses, representing 16% of all World Campus students, according to Penn State's website. 

"I wouldn't be able to be a traditional student," said Army Staff Sgt. John Daughenbaugh, as quoted by the website. "A lot of my courses are offered during the daytime. Online courses are convenient,"

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