ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- A Rota Sailor has nearly finished his bachelor's degree by taking advantage of the Navy College Office's College Level Examination Program (CLEP) program.
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW/NAC) A. J. Heaberlin of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 2, a student of Rota's Navy College Office, has taken and passed the CLEP tests for all of his electives and for some of his core classes, as well.
"I wanted to finish my college degree before I left Rota, Spain," said Heaberlin. "I started 18 months ago and I will finish Feb. 6 with a major in Professional Aeronautics from ERAU (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University), a minor in management and a minor in safety."
"I would just go to the library and check out the textbook a week before the test, just an old college textbook, and I would read the chapter reviews and the glossary and study for a week," said Heaberlin. "I knocked over 30 hours off my [degree requirements] with just CLEP tests."
CLEP tests are free of charge for active-duty service members, but cost $120 for command-sponsored civilians and family members. Other options include the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES) tests for $60, and the Excelsior tests, which vary in cost depending on the test. These tests are also free for active-duty service members.
While taking the CLEP tests was a faster route to a degree, Heaberlin said it was also a more difficult path to take, requiring a determined and motivated mind.
"You've got to want it," said Heaberlin. "I was on sea duty, deployed over 180 days last year, and I still managed to go to school."
"He truly exemplifies a commitment to the Navy's personal development vector [of the Five Vector Model], focusing on life-long learning and the Navy College program," said John Rizkallah, director of the Navy College Office for Naval Station Rota. "We're really pleased and happy to have somebody like him."
Heaberlin believes that education should start as early as possible.
"I wasted 14 years. I could have a PhD by now, easily, and it would have cost me nothing," he said. "Start earlier. Do as I do, but don't wait as long as I did.
"If you plan on doing 20 years, take your four TAs (Tuition Assistances) a year, and eventually in four or five years, you'll have your bachelor's degree. It's free. All you buy are the textbooks. Even if you plan on getting out, you can come in as a young seaman, do your four-year stint and have a bachelor's," said Heaberlin.
While starting early is a good idea, Heaberlin proves that it's never too late to complete your education.
"I started from scratch in July, 2003," Heaberlin said. "I would suggest it for anybody." He tells his co-workers the same thing he would tell anybody else. "Before you take the class, take the CLEP first."
"It's a highly effective and highly efficient system," said Rizkallah. "Individuals who are sufficiently motivated, such as Chief Heaberli, can maximize the system. They can get their degree relatively quickly and get the courses they need taken care of without actually having to go into the classroom to a large extent."
The entire degree cannot be achieved through CLEP tests alone because a student has to maintain a grade point average (GPA), and CLEP tests are a pass/fail system - no grades are attached.
"You maintain your GPA by taking classes in the college. Embry Riddle requires that you take a minimum of ten classes," said Heaberlin.
After completing his bachelor's degree, Heaberlin said he plans to start his master's in March 2005.
"The Navy gives you so many benefits to go to school," said Heaberlin. "Getting up to this point has taken me a year and a half, and it normally takes people four years."
For more information about the Navy College programs, contact the Navy College Office at extension 2711 or visit them in building 268 to speak with one of their counselors.
For related news, visit the Naval Station Rota, Spain, Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/rota.