July 25, 2024

Achieving Academic Outcomes

Enhancing Student Success

In the Know: Bridging the gap between military personnel and civilian careers – Alexandria Echo Press

4 min read

By Michael Seymour, ATCC President

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 200,000 men and women transition from military to civilian life each year. Yet for many this transition presents a formidable challenge. Despite extensive training and expertise gained through service, many face barriers when seeking to translate skills and education gained in the military into academic credentials and, ultimately, career opportunities.

Recognizing this gap, Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC), with the support of U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, spearheaded a visionary initiative in 2022: the Minnesota Global Military Learning Network (GMLN). Backed by $1.1 million in federal grant funding, the GMLN aims to revolutionize the way Minnesota recognizes and applies military experiences toward higher education degrees.

The purpose of GMLN is to provide simplified access to degree completion programs and targeted services. Both active and veteran military personnel are supported by a centralized digital platform that facilitates credit recognition for military learning and occupational experiences. By meticulously mapping military occupational specialties (MOS) to academic degrees, the GMLN is maximizing credit transfer for veterans and service members and streamlining pathways to high demand occupations including healthcare administration, cybersecurity, medical coding, and more. Improved transfer makes it easier, faster, and less costly for students to transition from military to civilian careers — with less of a headache.

After completing basic training and other requirements, service members receive specialized training and education in their military occupation. This requires months of intensive, accelerated training, but that experience doesn’t typically translate to a wealth of credit toward a college degree. To determine transfer credit, institutions analyze a service member’s joint services transcript (JST). This process can take several days to complete, and most students receive fewer than 10 credits. Some don’t receive any.

As an innovative college, ATCC thinks differently about educating our military and veteran students — they deserve more. Other states and several “online-first” universities provide centralized services and streamlined transfer like those offered through GMLN, but GMLN is designed to help Minnesota higher education institutions serve more students within the growing global market.

GMLN bridge programs consider individual military occupations and the training they receive. Degree plans are mapped in advance to maximize credit transfer to related programs. As a result, prospective students can see exactly how much credit they will receive for their military education and training and which courses they would need to complete to earn a degree.

The degrees are designed to stack sequentially, so a student could begin by taking a few courses to earn a certificate, then apply all of those earned credits toward a diploma or associate degree. Depending on the occupation and program, GMLN bridges can award up to 33 credits toward diplomas or associate degrees — in many cases more than half of the required credits are awarded at the start. Some certificates can be completed with as little as two courses after GMLN transfer credit is applied.

With dozens of program offerings and hundreds of military occupations to review, this is no small undertaking, and one not taken lightly.

GMLN convened an advisory committee to be the “voice” of our U.S. service members, and to help identify academic programs and services that both reflect the interests of service members and align with opportunities for gainful employment. Advisory committee members represent all branches of the U.S. military, plus higher education leaders and Veterans Affairs officials.

With input from the advisory committee, curriculum specialists began by identifying several priority areas of study that matched high-demand civilian careers. They then worked directly with military training centers and partner institutions to craft bridges between military occupations and comparable civilian degrees.

To date, nearly 50 degree plans have been developed, mapping military occupations to certificates, diplomas, and degrees in the areas of business, cybersecurity, healthcare administration, information technology, medical coding, ophthalmic medical technician, nuclear engineering technology, and liberal arts and sciences. All GMLN bridge programs can be completed entirely online, allowing military personnel and veterans around the globe to complete coursework on their schedule.

Military partnerships have been forged with the U.S. Naval Community College (USNCC), Medical Education and Training Campus (METC), and U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence (CCoE). In addition to ATCC, partner institutions include Northwest Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College, and Bemidji State University. Student support is provided by the Distance Minnesota consortium. The GMLN team hopes to recruit other Minnesota State institutions looking to serve more military and veteran students, and additional military training centers seeking continuing education opportunities for their service members.

The college anticipates serving approximately 200 active-duty military students this Fall. By thinking differently about how education is delivered, we can not only serve more students, but we can serve them better. Our military and veteran students give their all for our country, and they deserve our all when it comes to maximizing their education.

Michael Seymour is the president of the Alexandria Technical and Community College. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.


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