The American Council on Education (ACE) decision to award nine credits to personnel who have completed the U.S. Navy Recruit Training (aka boot camp), needs to be seen as a wake-up call to community colleges and universities across the country. Military students have invaluable expertise and unique learning experiences which are not only crucial to furthering their own educational advancement, but also add to the quality and diversity of each campus community. In an age where diversity is prized, military students remain an often over-looked and under-appreciated constituency for many higher education institutions.
Often seen as less prepared for academic rigorous studies and over-generalized as politically conservative, hence less open to progressive curricula, military students remain an under-appreciated and misunderstood student demographic.
Yet, military students are not only a truly diverse group with various political,cultural and spiritual beliefs, they also among the most ideal students. Contrary to commonly held assumptions regarding their learning abilities and preferences, military students are highly motivated, adaptable to different modes of learning and accustomed to interacting and thriving in multicultural environments. Focused on completing their studies and imbued by concepts of service and responsibility, military students contribute to campus life and academic inquiry within the classroom in unique and significant ways.
Despite continued enrollment challenges and the stagnant numbers of traditional college-age freshmen applications, many institutions, remain reluctant and unprepared to fully embrace and foster the success of military students on their campuses. Generally, colleges and universities create online degree options and offer financial aid services geared towards veterans through the G.I. Bill legislation to address military student needs. A few more also have begun to include PLA credits for military experience for select programs, mostly in Career-Technology-Education and Professional Studies programs. However, with very few exceptions, mostly fully online institutions, colleges, especially community colleges have fallen short at offering comprehensive programming and support services. This is particularly troubling in light of the combined challenge of low enrollments, declining revenue and the increased need for affordable credentials in an increasingly more competitive, free market society.
Community colleges would do well in addressing their enrollment shortages by offering robust programs to active-duty military and veteran students. A holistic approach would take into effect the time limit placed on financial aid benefits for veterans, the preferred means of communicating information, the need for supportive learning environments and the full application of military experience through PLA programs. Colleges want to move away from limiting PLA credits to select programs and only through cumbersome, individual evaluation processes, that are often solely dependent on one faculty member's judgement and are not integrated into the overall institutional degree requirements. Rather, community colleges can greatly benefit by aligning closely with ACE and institute transparent, easily accessible portfolio processes coupled with upfront credit evaluation upon admission. By accepting military experience as equivalent to college learning, community colleges in particular, are in a position to expand their student enrollment and increase their graduation and completion rates. For military students, the benefit lies in acquiring valuable and affordable credentials in a shorter time-frame, which allows for continued studies at the four-year and Graduate level, while using their G.I. Bill benefits.
The key to success lies in community colleges developing such comprehensive programs and infrastructure for military students; and for military students to make careful and informed decisions when selecting where to continue their education. ACE's decision to recognize the learning of NAVY recruits represents a step in the right direction towards fully awarding our servicemen and women for their contributions and sacrifice.
For more information on choosing the best institution and academic program; as well as for institutional leaders interested in developing military friendly programs and services, please contact Anna J Cooper Education Advocacy Consultants, LLC by completing the contact form for a free 30 minute consultation. firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973 919 9483.