July | August 2017






Giving Veterans Credit Where Credit is Due

By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
Veterans have unique needs when they attend college, but fortunately, state leaders can do quite a few things to help ease their transition into college, civilian life and the workforce.
“Generally speaking, their (veterans’) skills are undervalued by the civilian workforce,” said Dawn McDaniel, a U.S. Army veteran and president of Bravo Delta Consulting, a business that partners with companies and governments to help reduce the barriers for veterans in the workforce. “This is largely because the military culture is unknown. With only a 7.5 percent veteran population in the United States, … that leaves a tremendous amount of people who never had any connection or any intimate knowledge of the service and what it means.”
McDaniel was one of the featured speakers on a recent CSG eCademy session, “Credit Due: Increasing Veterans’ Postsecondary Degree Attainment.” She said veterans often have a hard time translating their training in the military into college credit. The intensive four-week training program she had in grammar and English to prepare her for her position as an administrative assistant, she said, should easily have filled in for the English 101 class she had to take after leaving the Army.
“Many (veterans) have courses that don’t transfer … and that creates a frustration with college and a feeling that it’s a waste of time,” she said. “Compound that with sitting in a classroom where you already know the material, it feels like, ‘Why should I bother sitting through college? I may as well just go get a job because I really want to get back to the workforce anyway.’”
Recognizing and awarding credit for a veteran’s training and experience through prior learning assessments can be a boon to former military members, said Patricia Brewer, Midwest regional liaison for the American Council on Education, also known as ACE. The council, which represents two- and four-year accredited institutions, works with the U.S. Department of Defense to review military experiences and training to recommend the appropriate college credit for veterans.
“We do know that giving credit through ACE recommendations and other forms of prior learning assessments does enhance degree completion,” she said.
Brewer said a 2013 study of community colleges showed that veterans who do not receive credit for prior learning had a completion rate of 12 percent, compared to 24 percent for those who did receive credit.
“Our own data from 2012 indicate that 92 percent of colleges and universities award credit for prior learning assessments, so they’re actively involved in that now,” Brewer said. She said 77 percent of higher education institutions award college credit for military training, while just 53 percent award credit for occupational skills learned in the military.
Brewer said many states are beginning to propose legislation that helps veterans gain college credit for their experiences and training. Legislators in Colorado and Washington, she said, have introduced bills that encourage higher education institutions to use the College Level Exam Program—also know as the CLEP test. CLEP tests were developed by the College Board to help students earn credit for prior experience and learning.
“Many, many states have legislation that encourages the use of CLEP tests and the awarding of credit that way,” she said. Among them—California, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, West Virginia and Florida. “Florida’s own data indicate that in 2012, Florida students saved $16 million through using CLEP tests as they came into college.”
Michigan also has some interesting programs to help veterans get through college quickly and back into the civilian workforce. Lisa Ferris McCann, program director for the Veteran Health Care Career Programs at Lansing Community College, said the college began looking in 2001 at how to move veterans quickly into health care jobs.
“We actually were looking at nursing to see if we could move (military) medics into nurses,” she said. “What we discovered was, when we were looking at transcripts and curriculum, is that (nursing) wasn’t really the best fit. We had a much better fit with the military medic to paramedic transition.”
The medic to paramedic program began in 2012 with five students. When veterans enter the program, McCann said, they begin with three days of competency testing to see what other credit can be awarded.
“We determined that we could apply prior credit to about 40 to 60 percent of the standard paramedic program,” McCann said. “That cut down the military medic’s time (to graduation) to about six months. … It has increased our degree completion by about 70 percent at this point.”
McCann said Lansing Community College also has developed a significant support network for veterans, including academic counseling and advising, as well as financial aid advising.
“We’ve done everything we can to make them inclusive into the college culture, because we are aware that there’s a transition process that goes on in the college culture that moves them … into civilian culture and prepares them for civilian employment,” she said. “We’ve very fortunate that we’re able to serve the veterans who have served us.”
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