Sergeant First Class James Greco began his military career in 1986. Since then he’s served on active duty in both the Coast Guard and the Army, and reserve duty in the Air Force. He’s completed tours in Afghanistan, Europe and South America, and worked as a civilian police officer in Georgia while in the Reserves. SFC Greco also found time to raise a family; he has four children and two grandchildren.It’s safe to say he knows something about commitment and sacrifice.
“I tried several other online colleges, but their guidance and support did not meet the challenges of my military career. New England College’s technical and administrative support is second to none.”
Now, SFC Greco is taking on a new role – that of a college student. He’s still on active duty in the Army, serving as Operations NCO with the 391st Military Police Battalion in Columbus, Ohio. But he’s also working on an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies through the online learning program at New England College (NEC).
“I tried several other online colleges, but their guidance and support did not meet the challenges of my military career,” says SFC Greco. “New England College’s technical and administrative support is second to none.”
Even with the backing of a military-friendly school, earning a degree while working as a full-time Soldier isn’t easy. To give himself the best chance of academic success, SFC Greco made sure he was 100% dedicated to completing his education before starting any classes. Additionally, he writes down every one of his priorities and tracks the progress he’s making on a chart.
“A visual chart of progress is very motivational,” he says.
SFC Greco also credits military Tuition Assistance (TA) with contributing to his accomplishments. The program helps active-duty personnel fund their education, paying 100% of tuition for up to 16 credit hours per year. TA does have limits – it pays a maximum of $250 per credit hour and has an annual cap of $4,500 – but most military students still find it immensely valuable.
“Military TA has allowed me to financially support the demands of a large family while securing a brighter future after retirement,” says SFC Greco.
He also notes anyone using TA should understand the program’s requirements, since getting poor grades or withdrawing from a class means the student has to reimburse the military for whatever TA funds were used.
“Students seem more open to expressing their views on the discussion board than they might be in a classroom environment.”
SFC Greco has also discovered that the online learning format offers certain advantages. It provides exceptional scheduling flexibility – allowing him to complete coursework at any time, from anywhere he has an internet connection – and also encourages students to share ideas.
“The interaction between students has broadened my opinion and views on many topics,” he says. “Students seem more open to expressing their views on the discussion board than they might be in a classroom environment.”
And his favorite class? “U.S. Politics. As national and international events took place, it provided a better understanding of how they are shaped.”
After SFC Greco completes his associate’s degree later this year, he expects to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Human Services at NEC. He is confident that both his education and military experience will help him find a secure, rewarding and meaningful civilian career.
“I plan to retire from the military in 2021 and pursue a second career assisting other veterans,” he says. “I have also been active in local politics and have given thought to running for a political office.”
As he works toward those goals, SFC Greco will also keep a lot of focus on his family and life at home.
“I’m a certified chef and the world’s toughest critic on pizza. My 5-year-old granddaughter and I eat M&Ms before bed to avoid stomach aches in the morning. But my wife Cynthia is my greatest inspiration; her support throughout the years has led to success in all my endeavors.”