Earning Credit for Military Experience

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By Marianne Weaver

Colleges and universities often offer credits to military service members for real-life experience, but matching hands-on experience to classroom courses hasn’t always been fast or complete.

“Sixty-seven percent of military-connected students are first generation, low-income and/or minorities who enlisted for access to education benefits,” said Tanya Ang, director of policy and outreach at Veterans Education Success, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and
defending the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers. “The challenge in pursuing an education is sometimes overwhelming.”

But with their MOS (the military occupational specialty code, which is the nine-character code used in the military to identify a specific job) in hand, new military-affiliated students attending any of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) can find out within minutes how many college credits they’ve already earned through their service.

VCCS has created an online tool, Credits2Careers Veterans Portal, that will help service members—active, separated and retired—earn more credit for prior learning experiences. The Credits2Careers Veterans Portal is designed for students to upload their Joint Services Transcript to see instantly how many academic credits their work experience could translate into for more than 1,700 community college programs.

“Credits2Careers means Virginia Community Colleges are the only college system in the nation with this comprehensive, patent-pending tool,” said Carlos Hopkins, Virginia’s Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. Last year, Virginia’s community colleges served 36,868 veterans and military-related students. “The Credits2Careers online tool will make it easier than ever before for our men and women in uniform to find a career path when transitioning from their service to civilian life. This portal will save individuals time, money and hassle as they look for an accelerated way into the civilian workforce.”

The Basics
According to Susan A. Moyer, MPA CWDP, VCCS Credit for Prior Learning coordinator, the program went live on Nov. 10, 2017. “We have more than 2,000 accounts created in the system,” she said. “Some have done four years of service, and some have done 20. They upload their military transcripts, and the
C2C portal shows them potential credits and then maps them to academic programs, showing them how many semesters they have completed based on their military service.”

The 23 community colleges participating in the program benefit by attracting adult learners who, Moyer said, tend to take more classes than traditional students.

“When students know they will receive college credits for their experience, they are two times more likely to enroll,” she said. “And those students tend to enroll in nine to 12 more courses than traditional students.”

How It Works
Before Credit2Careers, military members would enroll in a class and then put in a request for an official evaluation, said La Toya N. Sivells, Ed.S, from the Northern Virginia Community College Office of Military and Veteran Services in Fairfax. The catch: The meeting to plan their education strategy could not be set up until the servicemember was enrolled in at least one class.

“The process took six to eight weeks,” she said, “but with the C2C portal, military veterans or service members put in their MOS and download their transcripts into the portal, and it gives them a very close estimate of what credits they would get. It runs across all of the programs we have and compares them to other community colleges in the state.”

Because no two military transcripts are alike, Moyer said she’s seen a range of awarded credits–from nine to 40. Sivells said students with backgrounds in technology or intelligence tend to earn the most credits.

“Some of our students have had the best intelligence schooling the military has to offer,” said Sivells. Armed with their C2C results, she said, the new students are better able to plot their path to graduation.

The portal debut coincided with the dedication of Veterans Resource Centers at seven of Virginia’s Community Colleges. The colleges are part of the commonwealth’s VERITAS (Veteran Education Resource Initiative for Transition, Advising and Success) program. Those colleges include Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg; J. Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler in the Richmond area, Northern Virginia and Tidewater; Thomas Nelson on the Virginia Peninsula; and Virginia Western in Roanoke.

Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.

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