U.S. Naval Community College (USNCC)
Frequently Asked Questions
1) How will this benefit the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard?

The program is designed to benefit the Naval services as well as the service members who participate as students. The purpose of the USNCC is to provide world-class, naval-relevant education to a globally deployed force to enhance operational readiness and improve warfighting capabilities. It will do this by providing enlisted service members with access to high quality associate degrees and certificate programs that will produce graduates who are steeped in naval heritage and values, have sound ethical decision-making ability, possess improved critical thinking skills and have a deeper understanding of the complex maritime environment in which they operate.

In practical terms, in an increasingly globalized and ambiguous world, all service members will need to use critical thinking, analytical reasoning and other decision-making skills to be able to adapt to the future of warfighting and defense. Education that prepares service members not only for the needs of today, but the challenges of tomorrow are critical to our greatest success.

2) Why should the Department of the Navy (DoN) do this?

The robust training the Navy and Marine Corps provides supports the known. Education prepares Sailors for the unknown. The USNCC will support the mission of the Naval Services by helping to develop ethical leaders that are grounded in the history of the U.S. Military, and its role in our nation and across the globe. It will help to develop professional competence in areas from engineering to nuclear to data analytics to decision-making that will complement professional training. Finally, it will provide 21st Century skills inclusive of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, information literacy, data fluency, and teamwork. Students shall demonstrate effective communications skills, inclusive of writing and verbal communications. Most importantly, it will help to develop lifelong learners that can and will pursue further education.

In addition to creating better warfighters, it also will enhance recruitment and retention of enlisted Service Members, by removing barriers to education and investing in the enlisted force. It will honor their commitment to learning by ensuring substantive credit for prior experience/training, and develop four year pathways to a bachelor's degree and beyond. Finally, it will support diversity and inclusion by providing a program that supports a diverse group of students, and that can meet them where they are in terms of education needs.

3) What is the purpose of the USNCC?

The purpose of the USNCC is to provide world-class, naval-relevant education to a globally deployed force to enhance operational readiness and improve warfighting capabilities. While it is still in its pilot stage, it is working towards providing enlisted service members with access to high quality associate degrees and certificate programs that will produce graduates who are steeped in naval heritage and values, have sound ethical decision-making ability, possess improved critical thinking skills and have a deeper understanding of the complex maritime environment in which they operate.

4) Why is the USNCC needed?

In 2018 Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer, commissioned the Education for Seapower (E4S) Study. The study was led by an executive panel including: Admiral Michael Mullen, General John Allen, Ambassador Barbra Barrett, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Vice Chief of Naval Operations. The purpose of the study was to assess whether the Naval Education Institutions were keeping pace with rapid changes in society, geopolitics, and technology. As part of the study, researchers interviewed over 100 Senior Flag/General Officers, leaders of industry, esteemed academics, and senior members of the intelligence community.

Two E4S Study findings are relevant to the USNCC. First, the nature of warfare was changing rapidly and the intellectual and cognitive development of naval leaders at all ranks were essential to preparedness for modern naval operations. General Allen likened the naval education institutions as critical “foundries of the mind” and were as important to creating operational advantage as the iron foundries were for the Union during the Civil War. Naval leaders must achieve intellectual overmatch to maintain a warfighting advantage over our adversaries and this can only occur by providing world-class education to the naval force.

The second finding was that the largest portion of the naval workforce, enlisted Sailors and Marines, were not being used to their full intellectual potential. While numerous educational opportunities were available to them, there was no direct connection between enlisted education and naval warfare; voluntary education was primarily viewed as a benefit to prepare enlisted members for a career in the civilian sector. Naval relevant education must be viewed as important to enlisted personnel as PME is for the officer ranks. Modern warfighting concepts such as distributed operations will place a premium on the battlespace awareness, decision making ability, ethical judgment, and critical thinking skills of the entire naval force.

5) Who can use it?

At present, the plan is for active duty enlisted Service Members in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to be able to access relevant programs.

  • In January 2021, 500-600 students selected by their service, will participate in a limited pilot program whereby they will take several college courses at participating Colleges and Universities.
  • In 2022, up to 5000 students (as above) will be enrolled in degree programs through the USNCC and its participating institutions.
  • In 2023, the USNCC plans to reach its initial operational capability (IOC) and enroll up to 7500 students.
6) How does participation in the USNCC work?

The USNCC will provide naval relevant education through partnerships with the top academic institutions in the country. Courses will be delivered on-line in a highly-flexible format that takes operational commitments into consideration.

While the specific details are still being worked out, it is currently envisioned that an enlisted service member will apply for an Associate of Science (AS) degree or stackable certificate that is relevant to their rating/MOS. Students will be able to take college credits/courses each year towards an AS degree program with the USNCC. Those courses may be run directly by the USNCC or by one of its partner (consortium) institutions (which are currently being vetted). Initially, the degree will be offered by the partner institution, but as the USNCC achieves accreditation, it will become the degree grantor. The Department of the Navy (DoN) will fund participation in these programs, consistent with its policies and procedures.

Each program will include:

  1. US Naval Studies Certificate, which will include five courses in Naval Ethics and Leadership, Modern Naval History, Naval Force Design, Civ/Mil Organization and Policies, and Intro to Geopolitical Environment.
  2. General Education component - which will include additional courses in English, Math, and a combination of Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences.
  3. Professional certificate - a series of concentration courses that align to various areas of study relevant to the Navy (e.g. Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Organizational Leadership, Military Studies, Nuclear Engineering Technology, Maritime Logistics, and Aviation Maintenance Technology)
7) How will this get folded into my work or training day?

Similar to current Vol-Ed (TA) opportunities, all USNCC programs and course offerings will be exclusively through asynchronous on-line distance learning environments. Course work and participation will be expected to be done on personal electronic devices (computer, tablet, or other smart device) on a service member’s personal time similar to current Vol-Ed requirements. Individual Commanders may allow Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to complete academic coursework during the training day, if the operational environment permits.

8) Is participation in the USNCC degree programs required?

Current service policies do not require enlisted service members to pursue or complete college education. Service enlisted advancement policies include some incentives for completion of college classes and degrees. Services may adopt or change policies in the future to further incentivize the use of the USNCC or other enlisted educational opportunities.

9) Can families use USNCC?

As of today, the USNCC is open and funded for active duty Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen only. Families are not eligible.

10) What is an associate degree? What degrees will be offered?

The USNCC plans to offer an Associate of Science (AS) degree across 15 professional concentration areas. The Associate of Science degree is designed to be a two-year transferable degree, which means that its purpose is not only to provide a valuable education and credential to the service member, but also to be transferable into a bachelor’s degree program. The AS program will include a Naval Studies Certificate, a General Education component, and a Professional Certificate (concentration). Concentration areas are still under development, but will range from the technical to the more general.

In addition, the USNCC plans to offer stand-alone Undergraduate Certificates for students who may have already completed an associate or bachelor’s degree, or may be focused on skills development in a particular concentration area.

11) What happens after I get my associate degree?

In support of current DoN enlisted educational directives, emphasizing life-long learning objectives, service members may choose to continue pursuit of college degrees (associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees) utilizing service Tuition Assistance (TA) programs or their GI Bill. The USNCC will build transfer pathways (articulation agreements) that will allow seamless transfer with little to no loss of credit.

12) Can officers use the USNCC?

The primary audience for the USNCC is enlisted Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. However, Warrant or Limited Duty Officers may be able to attend in the future.

13) Is this a commissioning program?

This is not a commissioning program, but it does provide an opportunity to work towards completing a four year degree that is required for many commissioning programs. Successful completion of the rigorous academic coursework at the USNCC will be a good indicator of a service member’s dedication and ability to complete the academic portion of any commissioning program.

14) What if I was in NJROTC in High School?

NJROTC experience will be an excellent complement to USNCC activity. Any college credits earned during high school may be evaluated and applied to a USNCC AS degree.

15) What is the impact on the deckplate?

There is no negative impact to the current workforce or day-to-day operations. The USNCC will provide an educational opportunity to service members to pursue a naval relevant AS degree that compliments or supports their current rating/MOS at no cost to the service member, all on their off-duty time. Service members who take advantage of these educational opportunities, or any Vol-Ed programs, are better suited for the challenges they face inside the service and better prepare them for life outside of the military.

16) Does my Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard training count towards my degree?

Yes. The USNCC plans to leverage both ACE-recommended credits, as well as its own evaluation of training (where appropriate), to provide academic credit for the relevant competencies that a service member has demonstrated. The USNCC believes that it is imperative to recognize when a service member has mastered a competency, regardless of where that was learned. That being said, residency and relevance requirements will apply in the awarding of credit.

17) Who facilitates this program?

This USNCC pilot programs and future USNCC degree programs will be funded and run by the Department of Navy and in coordination with the maritime services (USN/USMC/USCG).

18) What is “naval-relevant” education?

The degree and certificate programs have been designed to do the following:

  • Students shall understand the context of the Naval Services through the lenses of history, civil-military relations and current geopolitical threats.
  • Students shall demonstrate strong ethics and judgment in personal and professional environments, and through individual and team leadership.
  • Students shall become proficient in one concentration area that has relevance to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard services.

Digging into this deeper, we have selected an initial set of concentrations that ensure that:

  • Every rating/MOS has one or more programs that directly relate to it:
  • That any/all concentrations would benefit the Naval Services overall, regardless of who takes them. They include a mix of technology-oriented programs, to leadership and management programs, to those focused on tomorrow’s technologies that address all ratings. The USNCC can also expand and adapt over time based on service requirements.
19) What is the Naval Studies Certificate?

The Naval Studies Certificate is envisioned as the common academic grounding for all participants in the USNCC Associate of Science program. The USNCC has identified five core courses - Naval Ethics and Leadership, Modern Naval History, Naval Force Design, Civ/Mil Organization and Policies, and Intro to Geopolitical Environment, which will make up the Naval Studies Certificate. These courses will provide the context of deeper/broader understanding of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard missions, and the individual service member’s role/responsibilities therein. These courses, while covering topics relevant to the Naval services, will also teach broader skill sets (e.g. critical thinking, analytical reasoning, writing etc…) and will count towards the General Education credits for most associate degrees in areas such as History, Political Science, and Philosophy. While the USNCC is not yet accredited, we will ensure that all consortium partners will accept these courses for credit, and will also get the courses ACE reviewed. On receiving accreditation, the USNCC will offer these courses directly for credit.

20) What are naval communications, as specified under the general education component?

USNCC envisions the General Education series in English will have a focus on both reading and communications (two different courses). The former will likely build off of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and/or Commandant of the Marine Corps’ (CMC) reading list. The latter will emphasize communications in a Naval setting (e.g. policy brief, memo, general writing skills, etc…)

21) What credentials are being earned on the way to an associate degree?

To begin, the student can earn a Naval Studies Certificate and also a Professional Certificate (in their concentration of choice, based on the 15 we’ve identified). Over time, USNCC also hopes to be able to offer other certificates and micro credentialing.

22) What is the USNCC definition of “full operational capability (FOC)?”

Ability to provide a full complement of degree programs/concentrations, and support demand/enrollment by 10’s of thousands of enlisted Sailors, Marines, Coasties, and auto enrolled with USNCC as a student upon accession into the service (end of recruit training).

23) What will the Service Member’s course load look like as a student?

The courses will be offered one course at a time, likely to be about 8 weeks in duration (similar to many online schools supporting Vol-Ed / TA).

24) Will the curriculum be based on a full time or part time schedule?

Instruction is designed in an asynchronous fashion, which does not require the student to be online at any certain point, but will have a required amount of interaction and participation throughout the week/course to support successful course completion. An expected weekly workload for a given course may be between 8-12 hours/week.

25) Are there specific details outlining Service Member’s responsibilities with full time work and school?

Students’ course load will require participation in a similar fashion to online schools, allowing service members to complete courses during nights and weekends, not during the work day.

26) Does this count against my service provided TA (Vol-Ed) entitlement?

College education opportunities offered through the USNCC are funded independent from service offered TA programs. Participation or enrollment with the USNCC will not affect your TA (Vol-ED) entitlements.

27) Can I use TA while participating in the USNCC Degree Programs?

Students participating in service funded VolEd tuition assistance in a given term are not permitted to take courses through the USNCC (and its programs) at the same time.

28) Who do I contact if I have questions or need assistance?

The USNCC team can be contacted at any time by emailing us at student.help@usncc.usmcu.edu for assistance to pilot students or for general questions or future inquiries at info@usncc.usmcu.edu. Please follow us on social media for current news and updates.

The USNCC is live on social media, follow us on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn for current updates and the latest news or visit our website.

Click here For Pilot I FAQ

Click here For Pilot II FAQ

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