MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Off-duty education opportunities are growing aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, offering Marines and sailors the chance to pursue their educational goals.<br /> <br /> This year, the number of Marines and sailors earning degrees aboard MCRD has grown. A total of 24 Marines and sailors earned degrees ranging from associate to a doctorate. This is an increase compared to last year’s nine graduates. As of July, 667 Marines have taken 1,942 courses during fiscal year 2011.<br /> <br /> To give Marines flexibility and accommodate their busy lifestyles, there are a few different options service members have when trying to take classes. They can choose online courses, a nearby school, or attend classes in the MCRD classrooms.<br /> <br /> “A majority of Marines are taking most of their classes online,” said James Brooks, education services officer. “Online schools are providing good opportunities to Marines in remote areas.”<br /> <br /> Currently, Columbia College, National University and San Diego City College are offering on-base classes to help service members with tight schedules. Brooks hopes to expand on-base opportunities by hosting more schools when room becomes available.<br /> <br /> “We are currently at capacity for offering in-seat classes on base,” said Brooks. “We have seven classrooms assigned for evening classes and they are all scheduled out for classes which run Monday through Saturday.”<br /> <br /> Classes are completely full in the evenings, and more colleges are waiting for the opportunity to offer classes on base. Due to the high demand for classes, MCRD looked at nearby bases to accommodate students such as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar or Naval Region Southwest.<br /> <br /> “These schools are going beyond the basics of just training,” said Brooks. “They’re asking, ‘What do Marines want?’ ‘What does the military want?’ and they go back to develop it.”<br /> <br /> On top of the three schools that offer classes on base, 13 others provide academic advisers and office hours on base. This allows students to sit and talk to them about their degree plan and make sure they are on schedule to complete it.<br /> <br /> One Marine who recently earned an associate degree expressed the importance of higher education due to the benefits in and outside the Marine Corps.<br /> <br /> “Education makes you competitive both in the civilian world and in the military,” said Sgt. Deborah Young, fiscal NCO, finance office. “I definitely had a sense of accomplishment after getting my degree.”<br /> <br /> If money is the only reason a service member is putting off their education then there are also a few different options they can use to fund their school costs.<br /> <br /> Tuition assistance currently offers up to $4,500 a year for service members who would like to attend classes. However, they do set a cap on the maximum price per credit hour depending on the degree being pursued.<br /> <br /> Another method of payment is to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The GI Bill offers financial support for education and housing for up to 36 months. Students can also choose to use both benefits to supplement each other if TA doesn’t cover the full cost of their yearly expenses.<br /> <br /> The two things a Marine needs to be eligible for TA benefits are to have a GT score of 100 or higher and to attend the College 101 Training. <br /> <br /> The education center offers the resources necessary to help Marines interested in education opportunities. College classes also help Marines get promoted by adding points to their composite score.<br /> <br /> “Having an education sets you apart and increases the possibility of promotion,” said Young. “It also demonstrates the person’s desire to better themselves and that’s a quality people look for.”<br /> <br /> For anyone interested in attending college or to get more information visit the Education and Career Service Center staff in Building 14.