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The eArmyU continuing education program allows enlisted soldiers to earn college credits while on active duty. This study sought to determine how to make eArmyU available to more individuals while controlling program costs. Historically, the primary cost of eArmyU had been attributed to the laptop computer provided through the program. This study examined the effects of the existing eArmyU program and of removing the laptop or other provisions on outcomes including soldiers” participation in the program, retention, duty performance, and quality of life. Four analytical approaches were used: a pilot test of alternative eArmyU programs, focus groups at pilot test sites, analysis of personnel records of enrollees and nonenrollees in eArmyU, and an educational interest and career plans survey of 8,000 enlisted soldiers. Those especially likely to enroll in eArmyU include: African Americans, females, AFQT Category I-IIIA soldiers, married soldiers, soldiers with dependents, and senior soldiers. The fully funded laptop is an important element underlying soldiers” participation in eArmyU; without it, eArmyU participation rates and the retention benefits of eArmyU are likely to decline significantly. Personnel records indicate that the current eArmyU program is associated with increased retention: eArmyU participants have one year longer to their ETS date than demographically similar nonparticipants and 25 to 30 percent of participants extend or reenlist to participate. Study recommendations include ways to achieve the goals of increasing enlisted access to education opportunities, constraining eArmyU costs, and limiting soldiers” risk of recoupment.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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