A Proposition for Marines

Seth Godin wrote an interesting article about the value of going to a big name school versus a lesser-name school that set my gears in motion. In it he writes:

    There's no question that a Harvard degree helps (or is even required) in a few fields. There's also no doubt that spending four years at Yale is a mind-changing experience. The question isn't, "are they wonderful?" The question is, "Is it worth it?"

I’ve pondered the same question about whether a degree is important at all in my essay titled “To Degree or Not to Degree: That is the Question.” In my essay I state that when it’s free or nearly free, you should pursue a degree or at least sign up for classes. "Is college worth it?" is a relevant question to a civilian, but largely an irrelevant question for a veteran, because as a veteran YOU’VE ALREADY EARNED THE RIGHT TO GO TO COLLEGE. The debt is paid in advance by your service and participation in the GI Bill. The question is whether or not you will call in the debt owed to you or forgive the balance.

Unfortunately, too many Marines are forgiving the balance. Only 57 percent of veterans use any portion of their GI bill benefit and this pains me. Out of the people that I know personally that have used the benefit, few attain a four-year degree with it, as there is an upper limit to the amount of money and time associated with the GI Bill. So if you want to use your GI bill to further your education, and you want to stretch it to a four-year degree, you need a plan. It helps greatly if you can start while on active duty. Because of operational commitments, it is difficult for most Marines to attend classes regularly or even do online classes. However, most Marines have room for a book or two wherever they go. For this reason, studying for test-outs is the most sustainable strategy while you’re on active duty.

For the first 10 Marines that contact me and tell me they would like to take the History of the United States I CLEP Exam, I will purchase a college textbook, and study guide for them. You can see the books I will purchase at the following link:

The History of the United States I CLEP Exam

The History of the United States I CLEP exam is a good first test to take. It’s worth three credits, and with all the military history Marines are required to study and retain, every Marine should be able to study and pass this test. Furthermore, the college textbook I’m offering will also cover the History of the United States II CLEP exam as well. Since taking the CLEP exam is free for active duty Marines, you have an opportunity to get 6 credits for free. More importantly, you’ll start to develop the study habits required to learn in and open-source environment, which will help you no matter what you decide to do.

Three rules:

1.) One set of books per company-sized unit
2.) You must be serious about studying and taking the CLEP exam
3.) You must pass the resources on to another Marine when you are finished with them.

If you’re interested, contact me (gannon at oo-rah.com).

Tony Haynes, a Marine I served with once showed me, through his example, how to use test-outs as a part of an education strategy. He learned it from a lance corporal. I didn’t apply it until I was out, and I never got to pass the strategy on to any Marine. I would like to remedy that.

2 Responses to “A Proposition for Marines” »»

  1. Comment by Brian | 11/06/07 at 12:36 am

    This is awesome -- I think it's great that you're doing this.

    I've thought about doing something "for the social good" with my own blog. This post has me thinking about it seriously again.

    Thanks for the inspiration Gannon.

    By the way, what's a test-out and can it apply to people who aren't in the Marines?

  2. Comment by Gannon Beck | 11/08/07 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks Brian,

    A test-out is a test you can take for college credit. It's a good option when you can't take the class. For instance, my wife is studying for the The History of the United States I CLEP Exam now. Her GI Bill benefits ran out and she is a few credits short of her degree. She is studying for CLEP exams to finish up.

    It does cost some money (I think about $60) to take the test if you're not in the active duty military, but civilians can take the tests also. Here is a link that will help you find testing sites if you're interested:


    Some colleges offer test-out programs also. At my college, they allowed me to take tests for anything in the curriculum for credit. I will say that I never studied for anything as hard as I did the psychology exam that I took. When you don't know what's going to be on the test, you have to know the subject matter that much more. It's a good experience though, and it helped me establish a pattern of self-direction in my own education. I also tested-out of drawing, which was a lot easier for me since I had been studying on my own for years.

    If you try it, let me know how it goes.


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