Veterans deserve help with military ‘skills translation’ to get college credit
Military Learning

Veterans deserve help with military ‘skills translation’ to get college credit

A new survey shows that U.S. military members and veterans who return to college often struggle to get academic credit for what they’ve learned and the skills they’ve mastered in the service.

The survey of more than 8,500 veterans found that “skills translation” was one of their top five concerns when returning to civilian life and college. For those who tried to get college credit, 64 percent said those credits fell short of what was expected. For most, this resulted in extra costs and time to earn their degrees or credentials.

Colleges and universities have enrolled 2 million student veterans since 2009. To understand the challenges they face, we partnered with American Institutes for Research for a survey, interviews, and focus groups with veterans currently or recently enrolled at U.S. colleges. Here’s what we found:

  • About 80 percent of veterans tried to get college credit, but only 64 percent succeeded–and that same number expected more credits than they received. About 21 percent said they earned no extra credit at all.
  • For 89 percent of student veterans, the lack of college credit for their military training meant spending extra time and money earning the credentials or degrees needed for civilian careers.
  • About 14 percent of student veterans didn’t realize college credit for military expertise was possible, and many others who knew it was possible struggled to find information about it.
  • Findings differed significantly by race and gender, with female students and students of color being less likely to try to get the extra credit they deserve.

While some colleges and universities offer valuable guidance to student veterans through academic advisors and on-campus student veteran centers, our survey found that broad improvements are needed:

  • Schools and state agencies need a better understanding of military students’ expertise, paths, and goals. Too often, it seems that military and civilian worlds speak different languages. Nearly three-fourths of student veterans said they look for military-friendly schools that will ease the process.
  • Realize that one size does not fit all, with veterans at all stages of their education and careers. Some need more advice on costs, classes, and “the ins and outs of veteran paperwork.”

One thing is clear: Veterans bring abundant talents and expertise to their civilian lives. It’s up to us to help them succeed by recognizing and rewarding their military jobs and training. For their sacrifices and service, it’s time they get the credit they deserve.

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