Education Center saves Air Force time, money

By Mike Joseph: 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Success and savings on national testing at the Lackland Air Force Base Education Center are forming a program model for the Air Force.

Last December, a partnership between Lackland AFB and the San Antonio branch of Wayland Baptist University computerized the testing program that is taking the national testing center to another level.

The joint venture increased attendance and passing rates, led to a WBU agreement with Air University providing professional military education testing at no cost to the Air Force, allowed establishment of a pilot program for technical school students and reduced Air Force costs more than $1 million for fiscal 2010.

“We’re out in front for now,” said Russ Gregg, the Lackland AFB education and training chief. “The NTC has become a focal point for all my bragging rights.”

Lackland AFB is currently the only installation in San Antonio offering computerized testing.

“Other bases are looking at us, and we may start to see more and more along this same model,” Gregg said.

So far, conservative figures total $1.3 million in savings for the Air Force, a number expected to climb by fiscal year-end, Gregg said. Savings come from no contractor test fees and reduced course expenses through increased passing rates (each passed test saves $750). The pace of current attendance projects the NTC will administer 9,800 tests by Sept. 30.

With Defense Activity for Non Traditional Support Education and College Level Exam Program tests changing Oct. 1, the Lackland AFB NTC could also see another spike in attendance.

Lackland AFB’s computerized testing has 38 DANTES and 34 CLEP tests available. Non-computerized education centers currently offer 14 CLEP tests and are expected to lose 22 DANTES tests in fiscal year 2011. Students taking computerized tests receive results instantaneously versus six to eight weeks with paper-based tests.

A pilot program for the 344th Training Squadron has also proven successful. Airmen in the first stages of technical training have exclusive access to the NTC for two sessions every Thursday. Passing rates have jumped after subject matter tests were adjusted, but still applicable to Community College of the Air Force two-year degrees.

“Recently, we had 23 airmen take and pass a principles of supervision test,” Gregg said. “That’s phenomenal.

“We’ve also had several 344th TRS Airmen pass 24 semester hours in one day,” he said. “That’s almost a year of college. By the time these airmen complete technical school and specialized training, they’re only three or four classes away from a CCAF degree.”

Those determined and academically prepared could do the same by utilizing the center’s four-day availability and instant test results, Gregg said. The goal, which coincides and fits with the 344th TRS, is to start airmen on an education course earlier in their career.

“CCAF gets airmen ready for advanced responsibilities,” Gregg said. “By completing that degree earlier in their career, it enhances their capability and the mission, and provides more educational options.”

The NTC is available to all active-duty, Reserve and guard members, regardless of branch or duty station. In addition to all the college tests, health certification exams for nursing are available at the Lackland Education Center.

For more information about the national testing center, contact your base education services office.