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Turning soldiers into scholars by turning military experience into college credit


JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how one state awards college
credit for military experience. It’s a way of both giving value for skills
already developed in the field and ensuring that military students are enticed to get
a degree. Hari Sreenivasan has the story for our ongoing
series Rethinking College. It’s part of our weekly look at education,
Making the Grade. SPC. KIERRA HOWARD, U.S. Army: Headquarters 8,
this is Headquarters 9 requesting a radio check. Over. HARI SREENIVASAN: After four years as a communication
specialist in the Army, Kierra Howard has decided she wants to go to college. SPC. KIERRA HOWARD: I’m in the Army, but I also
wanted, like, a formal education, too. HARI SREENIVASAN: Howard believes a degree
can help advance her military career. SPC. KIERRA HOWARD: I decided to take baby steps,
and get my associate’s, and then move onto bachelor’s. HARI SREENIVASAN: When she looked around to
find a college last spring, she got lucky. Based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs,
Howard enrolled at nearby Pikes Peak Community College. The campus is surrounded by military bases. Academic advisers here look for ways to translate
military service to academic credits. PAUL DECECCO, Director, Military and Veteran
Programs: Pikes Peak Community College: We bring them in and we talk about all the resources
here. HARI SREENIVASAN: Paul DeCecco is the director
of Military and Veterans Programs at Pikes Peak. So, how do you evaluate how to get credit
for those life experiences that they have had? PAUL DECECCO: The military issues a joint
services transcript. And on there, it lists out the education courses
that a service member attended, and also what we call their military occupational specialty,
what they did in the military. So, if we’re able to give them credit for
their military experiences or their military education, we try and do that. HARI SREENIVASAN: Pikes Peak awarded Kierra
Howard 20 credits, moving her way ahead in her pursuit of a degree. You basically got enough credits to transfer
that it shortened a year of your education here? SPC. KIERRA HOWARD: Yes. HARI SREENIVASAN: This year, Colorado legislators
embraced Pikes Peak’s model by passing legislation to help all Colorado military and veteran
students. Colorado’s new law says any state-funded institution
has to be able to evaluate the knowledge or skills that a student might have picked up
in the military. And if that student can earn credit for it,
those credits have to be transferable to every state institution. David Ortiz is a veteran advocate who helped
craft the legislation. DAVID ORTIZ, Program Director, VFW Post 1:
This is the right thing to do for service members and veterans. It makes them feel as if their training and
service to this country not only mattered on the bigger sense, but in the particular
level, that they’re now getting civilian credit for what they have already demonstrated. HARI SREENIVASAN: And Ortiz says it is a policy
that works. DAVID ORTIZ: Well, there’s plenty of research
that backs up that veterans that are awarded meaningful credit towards a degree are 33
percent more likely to take their degree to graduation, to fruition, and then be set up
for success for a job in the civilian world. HARI SREENIVASAN: A former Army pilot, Ortiz
was medically retired after his helicopter crashed in Afghanistan. He says a service member’s experiences are
creditworthy. DAVID ORTIZ: You go from being responsible
for multimillion-dollar equipment, being responsible for a dozen men and women, accomplishing a
mission, high-intensity, with quick timelines coming up, where lives are on the line, and,
obviously, the maturity and life experience that comes with it, but there’s also professional
experience that’s already been gained. HARI SREENIVASAN: But the transition from
intense military experience can sometimes keep veterans from returning to the classroom,
especially if they feel they are starting from scratch. PAUL DECECCO: They’re walking in with the
feeling of, I have had all of these experiences, both good and bad, I have had these life experiences,
and now I got to sit in English 121, English composition, or basic English class with a
bunch of folks who just got out of high school. So, it becomes a challenge. HARI SREENIVASAN: David Ortiz says awarding
credits helps address that imbalance. DAVID ORTIZ: Those that have served for five,
10, 20 years, some working in intelligence, some working in communications, don’t start
at the same footing as your 18-year-old graduating high school. HARI SREENIVASAN: Ty Upshaw retired from the
Army after 21 years. He says the 15 credits he received for his
military experience was a great motivator. TY UPSHAW, Retired From U.S. Army: That was
a great boost morale. It made me feel like everything I had done
was a success. HARI SREENIVASAN: Upshaw is pursuing a bachelor’s
degree in business at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He was able to transfer skills learned from
his position in the Army’s Human Resources Department to necessary courses for business
school. TY UPSHAW: I was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait,
and Afghanistan. As a human resource specialist, I received
college credit for group communication, computer information science course, organizational
communication, public speaking. HARI SREENIVASAN: But will awarding course
credit for military experience water down the integrity of a college degree? Is military experience really comparable to
college experience? OWEN HILL (R), Colorado State Senator: Look,
we’re not here to give gifts. HARI SREENIVASAN: Colorado State Senator Owen
Hill, one of the bill’s sponsors, says colleges will need to do rigorous assessments. OWEN HILL: It shouldn’t just be carte blanche. There needs to be a logical, well-documented,
clear match. We want to make sure that we are giving credit
for real work that has been done. If you give someone credit for it, and they
don’t really know it, and they’re not qualified to move on with that, then we’re also setting
them up for failures. HARI SREENIVASAN: Paul DeCecco says the law
has opened up a needed conversation between the state’s two-year and four-year colleges. PAUL DECECCO: What the law did, is it brought
everyone to the table, so we could talk as equal partners, whereas, before, I don’t know
that there was motivation from the other major universities within Colorado to do that. Why do I want a community college telling
me what I should or shouldn’t accept? The law also told every university and college
within Colorado that they must have this process. HARI SREENIVASAN: For his part, Ty Upshaw
has plans for how he will use his degree in business. TY UPSHAW: I’m going back to school because
I want to open a jazz club. I will be able to fine-tune my business plan
for a target market for people we want to attract into our jazz club. HARI SREENIVASAN: Kierra Howard says she plans
to stay in the Army. SPC. KIERRA HOWARD: College helps with getting
promoted in the Army. So I really just want to take the credits
and the courses to just be better at my job. HARI SREENIVASAN: Colorado joins 23 other
states who have passed similar laws to give academic credit for military service. In Colorado Springs, I’m Hari Sreenivasan
for the “PBS NewsHour.”

Tony wyaad

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