Nearly half a million veterans enrolled in college in the fall of 2009, just one month after the August 2009 enactment of the latest incarnation of the Montgomery GI Bill.
Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

Are Colleges Ignoring Your Military Experience?

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"It is time for those of us who have been calling on these brave men and women. to assist in providing a meaningful chance for a first-class future. This (Post 9/11 GI Bill) ...is equal to the first-class service that they have given to this country."

These were the words of Senator Jim Webb as he offered rich praise for the value of those military men and women who now stand ready to use their new GI Bill.

In fact, nearly half a million veterans enrolled in college in the fall of 2009, just one month after the August 2009 enactment of the latest incarnation of the Montgomery GI Bill, as more veterans and servicemen qualified for benefits under the expanded GI Bill.

Many of these "military freshmen" will be a good deal older than their college-freshman counterparts, both chronologically and in life experience. Military freshmen come from the world of the battlefields, boot camps, and training grounds of their military careers.

But will those military-savvy service men and women be able to count their military experience for college credits?

COLLEGE CREDIT FOR MILITARY ACCREDITATION

An estimated one in five colleges and universities do not give academic credit for military education, according to a recent survey of 723 schools by the American Council on Education. Thirty-six percent of colleges do not award credit for military occupational training either.

Many, like the private Boston College, accept credit only from other institutions of higher education.

For the average military college freshman, Boston College's policy means a military student may be forced to start academic education at a level below his or her own knowledge base, thus spending more than necessary to earn a college degree in their chosen field of study.

It also means that military students may have to stretch financial aid or GI Bill benefits, and delay entry into a work force they are fully qualified to enter by virtue of a combination of college credits and military experience.

ACADEMIA VS. MILITARY EDUCATION

In most cases, colleges say it's simply an academic decision to not award any credit for learning acquired outside a traditional classroom setting.

Many colleges further explain that they consider most military training and preparation to be good "experiential learning," but quickly note that it's different than the academic learning of the college environment.

SPEAK UP FOR YOUR MILITARY EXPERIENCE

In the end, it's up to each college's individual academic departments to give or deny credit for military experience a new student may have. So if you are a military service man or woman entering college now, be sure to show your military career experience and training and make a case for translating it into college credits.

While colleges note that practical life skills may not be the same as a university education, they tend to agree that military experience can be a solid foundation for successful completion of a college education.

And, as Senator Webb duly noted, the value of military service indeed counts for a lot.



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