Turning military service into Minn. college credit

One-stop shop: Click on "Military Credit Transfer"

It’s tough being a military veteran on the way to college.

Few in education know the military jargon that classifies what soldiers do, so it’s tough to say how much of their training and experience applies to the classroom. And it’s an overwhelming task to figure out which of the dozens of military-related Web sites is the best place to research courses and benefits.

But the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system says its new online tool solves both problems.

Today it unveiled its Veterans Education Transfer System — billed as the first of its kind in the country — which helps soldiers more quickly see how many credits they can get for the training and service they’ve undergone.

“It saves the soldiers time and energy,” said Susan Larson, Army education specialist. “It also validates their experience serving their country.”

In the past, soldiers have had to struggle to explain just what it is that they’ve done, as well as the training they’ve received.

Just plug in your position

Army Col. Kevin Gerdes said it can be difficult, for example, to explain to someone outside the military just how important a leadership role a squad leader has.

“If a soldier sells himself short,” he said, “then someone will say, ‘Sorry, I have nothing for you.'”

The system solves that problem by standardizing the process. It acts as a translator of sorts between military personnel and education officials.

How it works:

1) Soldiers enter their branch, military occupation, period of service and skill or rank.

2) The site produces a list of programs that most closely match a soldier’s area of training. Vets can get a little information on the related occupations, and see labor data such as median wage and employment outlook.

3) Once the vet chooses a program, the site shows which MnSCU colleges and universities offer it, how many credits they require for graduation — and how many credits the vet’s experience has earned.

What your service gets you

So an enlisted Level 20 / E5 soldier, for example, who has served as a 63B – Light Wheel Vehicle Mechanic since April 2004 who wants to study diesel technology at Riverland Community College will get 15 transfer credits applied toward the 69 required for a diploma there.

A few caveats, however:

Not every school grants the same amount of transfer credit.

Because the program has just started, the credit-transfer calculation service is limited to four of the largest occupational fields that military personnel have worked in:

  • law enforcement
  • diesel and truck mechanics
  • administrative and human resource assistance; and
  • paramedics.
The nitty gritty: course credits earned

(Those should expand to other fields in the future, MnSCU officials said.)

Those who have specialties outside of the four areas above can still go through the process. They’ll just have to click a button to request a credit-transfer analysis made just for them.

Many combat positions — such as infantry — will remain difficult to transfer over because they have such specialized skills, said Gina Sobania, academic credit coordinator. That said, soldiers can still get credit for elements of basic and advanced training.

The transfer tool is part of a new Web site section — http://www.veterans.mnscu.edu/— designed to be a one-stop education shop for vets. The site contains another new tool called GPS Life Plan — also accessible at http://www.gpslifeplan.org/mnscumilitary/ — that provides “life” planning in the areas of career, finance, leadership and wellness.

Update:

This gives an idea of the potential scope of the project:

MnSCU institutions educate about 60 percent of the veterans who use federal military benefits for education.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been more than 17,000 deployments of the Minnesota National Guard for active duty overseas. A recent survey of 2,500 of those completing deployment showed that 80 percent wanted to begin or return to higher education.