• United States Armed Forces' voluntary education program: The effect of enlisted service member retention

      Brauchle, Kenneth Charles; Smith, David M. (1997)
      The United States Armed Forces have sponsored off-duty voluntary higher education programs for fifty years. The investment in these programs by the Armed Services is substantial. In 1996, Department of Defense (DOD) expenditures for Tuition Assistance programs totaled $121 million. The longevity and scope of these military programs make them an ideal special case through which to study the outcomes of employer sponsored off-duty education. This study looked at the relationship between participation in military sponsored off-duty education programs and enlisted retention in the service. The data for the study was from a large (60,000 respondents) survey conducted by the DOD in 1992. Both univariate and multi-variate statistical analysis techniques were used. Additionally, over thirty semi-structured interviews were conducted with service members. The quantitative analysis supports the conclusion that long-term participation in off-duty education is significantly and positively related to intention to reenlist in simple bi-variate models. However, when several other variables thought to be related to retention are controlled the overall education participation effect is very small, accounting for little of the variation in intention to reenlist. A comparison of the education participation pattern in this data with previous studies leads to the conclusion that there has been a fundamental change in the relationship between off-duty education and retention in the last ten to fifteen years. The qualitative data suggest that the military places a high value on educational participation exhibited in formal and informal policies, the organizational reward system, promotions and attitudes. The opportunity to participate varies by location, specific job and military specialty. Servicemembers' attitudes toward education appear to evolve. Early participation seems to be extrinsically motivated with an intrinsic motivation developing as the servicemember continues to participate. The quantitative and qualitative data support the conclusion that the military has changed in its view of educational participation. The data point to the conclusion that the military has adopted educational participation as an integral part of the military culture. This value is so embedded within the environment that the effect of educational participation may be masked by other variables such as satisfaction with the military way of life.