States collaborate to help veterans make military experience count in school

The switch from military to civilian life holds many challenges, but a partnership of Midwestern states is hoping to ease this transition by using a service member’s military experience to increase postsecondary degree completion and streamline pathways for earning professional certification.
The Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit is coordinated by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, a nonprofit organization serving 13 states in the region.

Through this collaborative, states learn from each other’s successes or mistakes rather than constantly reinventing the wheel, says Sara Appel, program director for the initiative. Since the project began in 2014, education officials from each state have met regularly to share best practices and policies, with much of the focus on articulation of a service member’s military experience.
Traditionally, colleges receive a military transcript listing an individual’s occupation, training and coursework, and then begin deciding how many credits should be awarded for that experience. The nature of military occupations can vary between branches and between ranks within the same branch, which makes credit articulation a time-intensive process.
Since 2006, a state law has required the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to award educational credits for courses that were part of someone’s military training or service. In recent years, an accelerated system for evaluating military transcripts has begun to be used, and officials are now working to implement it in all of the state’s public colleges and universities.
MnSCU officials gather recommendations from the American Council on Education’s Military Guide and correlate them to courses offered at a particular institution, where career and technical education faculty then decide whether to accept the recommendations.
This method allows faculty to proactively cover hundreds of military occupations rather than waiting for one to show up on a transcript, says Gina Sobania, director of adult learning services at MnSCU.
MnSCU is now offering technical assistance to education officials in all Midwestern states through the regionwide collaborative.
“We don’t want states to have to start from where we were eight years ago,” Sobania says.
In 2014, Ohio legislators passed HB 488, which requires postsecondary schools to set standards for awarding academic credit to service members. Other Midwestern states (see map) require licensing bodies to accept military experience as progress toward credentials for certain occupations — for example, work as a nurse or as an emergency medical technician.
Stateline Midwest: June/July 20162.51 MB