University of Phoenix is the United States’ largest private university. It has over 400,000 students split between a robust online learning program and 400 brick and mortar campuses. Through GeekMom, I have been offered the opportunity to take an online class (of my choosing) with UOPX and write about my experience. This post is part of that ongoing series.
When I became a military wife twenty years ago at the age of 23, I had no understanding of what I was “signing up for.” I knew that my husband and I would be moving to three different regions of the country in the first two years of his commitment and that he’d be required to work 60-100 hour work-weeks as he progressed through the Navy’s nuclear power training program (fact: the United States Navy actually operates over 100 nuclear reactors–split between submarines, aircraft carriers, and nuclear training facilities–and trains most of their nuclear staff in-house). What I didn’t understand was how difficult it would be to create my own career around my husband’s.
At the time, the nuclear training program was split into two components–a year of classroom instruction (for us, in Central Florida) followed by six months of prototype training that could occur at one of four nuclear training installations around the country. At the end of training, students would then receive orders for active duty at any of the state-side navy bases. The upshot of this was that in the span of twelve months in 91-92, we moved from Central Florida to upstate New York to Norfolk, Virginia–and with the ink still wet on my first paycheck at a new, hard-won job, we were told that my husband’s boat was being redeployed to San Diego.
Now, there is a reason that I write for GeekMom and not Glib(GetsInvitedToSwankParties)Mom. At my core, I am an introvert that requires “a good bit of time to grow accustomed to new people and places” (as Robin mentioned in her April post on introversion). There are, apparently, people who can handle this level of upheaval in their lives but I am most definitely not one of them.
Which is why we didn’t move to San Diego. I explained to my husband in decibels that had dogs up and down the Virginia Peninsula gnashing their teeth in anguish that his boat might indeed be moving to San Diego, and that he might even be a crewman on that boat, but that the only way I was joining him on the West Coast was if he trussed me to the front of the car and drove me there–and even then, the sainted ghost of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover himself would be unable to stop me from hurling myself bodily and with ill-intent into the spume-y Pacific upon arrival. I needed to grow roots and stay in one place for a while.
In a brazen (and let’s face it: concerned) omnia vincit amor bid, my husband procured an unheard-of transfer to a Norfolk-based submarine and we were able to remain in the same home for the next four years. Even with this “victory,” however, these active-duty years were tremendously challenging. My husband was attached to a fast-attack sub with no set schedule that was often out at sea for months at a time–one year, the boat was out to sea and out-of-communication beneath a polar ice cap for almost ten months, cumulatively. Even when he was in port, “the nukes” pulled duty every third night, staying aboard the boat to monitor its reactor. (All this, I might add, on a salary that would have qualified us for food stamps had we gotten pregnant at the time.)
We’ve been out of the Navy for 11 years now but all of these experiences came rushing back to me when I was offered the opportunity to take an online class with University of Phoenix for GeekMom last spring. Back in the 90’s, I’d felt trapped by geography–none of the colleges in our region offered media programs. It seemed I had a choice: I could physically separate from my husband to attend school and pursue my own professional dream or I could stay at home and put my education off until we were out of the military. One summer, I actually tested the idea and enrolled in a course in a media/journalism three hours away in Washington, DC, but ultimately, it didn’t feel like the right choice for that time, either personally, financially, or professionally, and I returned home.
Would University of Phoenix have been a good option for someone like military-wife me, I’ve wondered?
Since we’ve left the military, more attention has been paid to wives’ professional lives–at least in part because the numbers of military personnel coming home injured from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom mean that some military wives are put in the position of becoming the primary wage-earner for their families. As a result, in 2009, the government began allowing a transfer of GI Bill benefits to a dependent spouse or child for the first time. Previously, the government had also created the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts Program (MyCAA) program for spouses of military members in the lowest pay grades to help cover costs associated with an accreditation or undergraduate degree. Financial access-wise: we’ve come a long way, baby…
Cost-wise, like many schools, University of Phoenix actually charges active-duty military and their dependents lower tuition fees–undergraduate classwork is generally assessed at $250 per credit and graduate work costs between $465 and $575 per credit (depending on the program), while non-military students will pay hundreds of dollars more for each class. According to eLearner.com‘s comparison of online education costs:
At the University of Phoenix, tuition for online business programs is $345 per semester-hour at the Associate’s degree level, $530 per semester-hour at the Bachelor’s degree level, $655 per semester-hour at the Master’s degree level, and $745 per semester-hour at the doctoral level. There are also additional fees, including a registration fee for each course.
As I now know, to enter the military is to become a member of a cultural minority–there are behaviors, language, and experiences unique to military life that are difficult to appreciate and comprehend from the outside. University of Phoenix has been criticized for unfairly enticing military members and depending too much on federal student aid but as a former military-dependent I see its willingness to adapt programming to the needs of active-duty military and their spouses through their Military Division as one of the school’s greatest justifications.
What do you think?