In our blog, we have covered a number of different topics relating to helping service members make the transition from the military to the college campus. Our goal has been to provide information and best practices to both college-bound service members and veterans as they seek to enhance their lives through earning a college education; as well as to colleges and universities as they seek to better serve this unique student population. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have both implemented policies, procedures, and practices for post-secondary schools to follow to better serve the military-connected student population. The good news is that overall, things for the military-connected student have improved. However, there is one area that still needs to see improvement; the transfer of credits for military training and experience.
In an earlier post – “Step 4 – Getting the Credit You Deserve” we discussed what service members and veterans can do to obtain credit for their military training and experience. The good news is the majority of colleges and universities have adopted processes to at least review military transcripts for equitable college credits. Just to be clear, if the school is accepting Military Tuition Assistance (MTA) funds, this is a requirement, not an option. Schools receiving MTA must agree to at least review a service member’s or veteran’s military transcripts for equitable college transfer credits as reflected on the Joint Services Transcripts, Coast Guard Institute Transcript, or Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) Transcript. There is no requirement for the school to accept any of these credits.
So yes, there are a great number of schools that have agreed to review military transcripts for possible transfer and there are also a number of schools that will actually accept credits. Generally, though, the majority of these schools will only accept military credits for general education or free electives or lower-level courses. It has been my experience that this is where the definition of what truly makes a military friendly school comes into play. A truly military friendly school will take the additional time to research where additional credits, including upper-level credits, could be transferred. So what can a school do to really support their military-connected students regarding the transfer of credits from their JST?
The first thing to do is to really become familiar with what a JST is and how it is arranged. A review of a sample JST shows all of the military duty positions held by the student as well as all of the military training and education they have received while in uniform. It also shows all of the “recommendations” for college credit based on the American Council on Education’s review process.
The second step in the process is to use the American Council on Education’s Military Guide. The ACE Military Guide is a very useful tool designed to help service members and educational institutions gain greater insight into the credit recommendations for military occupations and training programs. Using the ACE Military Guide in conjunction with the JST, schools can conduct a deeper dive into the JST to see how and where credits can be transferred. The ACE Military Guide provides information on critical elements: learning outcomes, methods of instruction, and related competencies.
I have used the information contained in the ACE Military Guide to meet with academic deans and discuss transfer credits for students. In every case, the Dean was amazed at the degree of detail the ACE Military Guide provided, allowing them to approve the transfer of credits or in many cases to authorize a course substitution. These discussions resulted in the military-connected student receiving additional transfer credits, reducing the number of credits needed to complete their degree. It also showed the student that their military training and experience is truly appreciated and respected from an academic standpoint.
If you are a military-connected student seeking to have credit granted for your military training and experience, take the time to fully understand your JST or CCAF and the ACE Military Guide. During the enrollment process ask to speak to the person responsible for evaluating possible transfer credits. If you think more credits should be considered for transfer as to speak an academic dean or program chair to discuss your case. A truly military friendly school will have a process for this.