The Project: Provide 40,000 far-flung soldiers with education opportunities through a virtual university.

The Payoff: Boosts the Army as a career path; better-educated soldiers.

It's rough enough patrolling the mean streets of Iraq. But some 270 U.S. soldiers there face additional tests: marketing, English, Psych 101. These are students at eArmyU. This three-year-old U.S. Army program is now one of the nation's largest virtual universities. Learning through laptops, some 40,000 soldiers are continuing their studies in 50 countries -- even in Iraq and Afghanistan.

EArmyU, a consortium of 27 universities, offers soldiers the choice of 142 degrees and certificates and more than 900 online courses. More than 8,500 GIs say they have extended their tours or re-upped in order to qualify. And why not? The Army provides laptops and foots tuition up to $4,500 a year. And it's a bargain for the Army as well, which figures it would otherwise spend some $45,000 to recruit and train each replacement soldier.

By William C. Symonds

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