“It offers a fast-paced program that is perfect for the unpredictability of the Army. It’s difficult to take traditional-length college courses when your duties could keep you away for weeks at a time. NEC’s seven-week classes fit the military lifestyle much better.”
Staff Sgt. Jamal Roberson joined the Army when he was 19 years old and fresh out of high school. Unsure of his career or educational path, he was intrigued by a recruiter who spoke to one of his classes.
“He told a room full of students about the benefits and rewards of becoming a Soldier,” says Roberson. “Seven years later I’m still in the Army, and I love my job. I’m friends with that recruiter to this day.”
Now settled into his military career and family life – Roberson is married with three sons – he’s also taking on a new challenge: earning a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration through the online learning program at New England College (NEC).
“I decided to pursue my degree with NEC mostly because my wife had done a ton of research into the school,” he says. “It offers a fast-paced program that is perfect for the unpredictability of the Army. It’s difficult to take traditional-length college courses when your duties could keep you away for weeks at a time. NEC’s seven-week classes fit the military lifestyle much better.”
And why business administration? “I realized a business degree is universal. It will help me in almost any career path I choose, military or civilian.”
Like many students serving in the military, Roberson takes advantage of the Tuition Assistance (TA) program. This benefit helps pay tuition for active-duty personnel – up to $250 per credit hour, with an annual cap of $4,500. NEC specifically prices undergraduate courses so that TA covers tuition entirely; military students using the benefit typically only have to worry about paying for textbooks and other supplementary costs.
“The TA program has been very beneficial to me,” says Roberson. “I’m sure I wouldn’t have completed as much as I have without it. Free tuition is something a lot of people in this country wish they could have. I understand that and try my best not to take it for granted.”
Even with financial assistance, balancing the rigors of being a Soldier, student, husband and father isn’t easy. Roberson has many late nights followed by early mornings, and even finds himself occasionally falling asleep at the table while studying.
“I had to reevaluate my time management skills,” he says. “The technique that helped me the most is reverse planning. I learned reverse planning in the Army; it’s basically calculating all the time it takes to accomplish a task, so you make sure you can do what’s required. I also learned to work ahead, because as a Soldier you never know when you may have to leave for some time.”
While he’s found all of his classes to be valuable and informative, Roberson notes that his favorite so far has been Web U: Using the Internet to Understand Your World. The course explores the concept of community and the various factors that affect it, such as morality, perception and personal interaction.
“I enjoyed learning about communities. About how people have different cultures, think differently and how that applies in today’s world. I am a part of a unique community with many different backgrounds and that course was very useful.”
Where his personal life is concerned, Roberson puts a lot of emphasis on his family. He’s an avid fisherman, and every summer he takes his oldest son on a fishing trip with his Army buddies.
“My family inspires me to succeed. I have three boys and have high expectations for them, so I need to set an example and provide them with a better life.”
His short-term goal is to complete his bachelor’s degree at NEC. Down the road, he sees the possibility of becoming a business owner.
“When I leave the Army, I plan to own a club or perhaps do something else in the entertainment industry.”
With a strong family, military leadership skills and a solid education to support him, Roberson will be well-prepared to transition into the civilian workforce.