FORT BENNING, Ga. (WRBL)— Tuesday afternoon, Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the re-opening of their Education Center.

Housed inside the Soldier for Life Center, the Education Center closed more than a year ago following strains of the COVID pandemic and much needed renovations.

During its limited hours and availability, the Education Center has been functioning on partial staff, utilizing limited space, and offering predominately online courses with their five partner schools over the last year.

Now, classes are set to be back in person. CSM of Fort Benning Michael Sanchez says these opportunities impact more than just the service members at Fort Benning.

“It also entices your kids, your children, your grandkids to achieve those same goals to say, ‘Hey, if I can do it, you can do it.’ And it’s not just about this individual’s family, but it also influences all of the soldiers and family members that he or she may partake or come in contact with,” CSM Sanchez said.

Night classes will be offered in partnership with Columbus State University, Columbus Technical College, Troy University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Central Texas College.

While retirees, family members, dependents, and civilian personnel are all eligible to take classes, Fort Benning Education Services Officer James Craig says it helps increase accessibility for service men and women.

“The schools here can create specific classes based off of the need of the soldiers in the community. And the soldiers have the convenience, instead of driving off posts to go to main campuses based off of their schedule, they’re able to come here in the evenings right after they get off work and attend their classes and get the full credit as if they were taking classes on main campus,” Craig said.

During Fiscal Year 2022, more than 33,000 people were enrolled in courses with their partner schools. 873 of those were military soldier enrollments, and more than $6 million in tuition assistance were awarded.

With the in-person classes making a comeback, Craig says he hopes those numbers will continue to rise.

“Back to life, the way it’s supposed to be, providing those services for our community to walk through the hallways and see students in the seats and an instructor up teaching. I know education is so important. The Army’s going to be done with you eventually, and the soldiers need to set themselves up and prepare themselves for the future. They can do that now here in the convenience of our Education Center,” Craig said.