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College Credit for Veterans: Letters to The New York Times

June 21, 2016


Note: ACE and three veterans organizations—Student Veterans of America, Service to School and the Warrior-Scholar Project—submitted letters to the editor responding to a May 30 op-ed in The New York Times regarding the Council’s respected military credit evaluation program.

The letter by the veterans organizations can be read by clicking here.

Below is ACE’s full letter to the editor, as submitted. The Times published an abbreviated version of the below letter, which can be read by clicking here.

Re “Veterans Deserve a Chance in College, Not a Free Pass” (Op-Ed, May 30):

A basic principle of 21st century higher education is that not all college level learning takes place in a college classroom—it can occur in places as varied as corporate training rooms, libraries, union halls and even living rooms. And despite the well-intentioned but misguided characterizations of Alexander McCoy in his recent op-ed, it can and regularly does occur in the halls and on the training fields of the U.S. military. 

That is why, for more than six decades, the American Council on Education (ACE) has facilitated reviews of military training and occupations to make college credit recommendations that are considered by more than 2,300 colleges and universities.

ACE does not calculate academic equivalence in a vacuum. Working closely with the Department of Defense and each military service branch, teams of college faculty members from accredited institutions carefully analyze the content, scope,  rigor and assessment  of  hundreds of military training programs, courses and specialties. Each institution decides whether to accept credit from an individual veteran or service member based on its own mission and policy.

Too often, we see jobs in our country that go vacant because we do not have enough candidates who have both conceptual and applied skills and the related knowledge. And we see too many nontraditional students stymied by unnecessary barriers in their quest for the postsecondary degree that is so necessary for success in today’s global economy.

It makes no sense to force veterans who have had both classroom and on-the-job training in roles as varied as medics, IT specialists, mechanics, communications technicians, and military police take college courses—at considerable cost in time and money—that require them to duplicate lessons already learned. 

The evaluation of this training has also evolved and changed with the times. Unfortunately, Mr. McCoy erroneously applies evaluation criteria made more than 15 years ago to current college curricula. Previously broad topics related to basic training and military science are now more narrowly defined, such as granting one credit hour for first aid competency and another for physical fitness. Clearly, those who completed Marine Corps basic training would say it is more than comparable to the physical education courses required of many college students. Not to mention more intensive courses offered throughout the military in areas such as engineering, management, and homeland security.

Mr. McCoy is correct on one point, however: There are some schools that prey on veterans, and we encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs to take a firm line in dealing with them and ensuring that only quality institutions are eligible to participate in the G.I. Bill.

It is indeed ironic that Mr. McCoy’s column ran on the same day that the Times also published a front-page story, “After Thriving in Combat Tours, Veterans Are Struggling at Home.” By recognizing academic skills and professional competencies that military-connected students have acquired, ACE makes a small but important effort to help them translate their military experiences to civilian life.

Deborah M. Seymour
Chief Academic Innovation Officer
American Council on Education
Washington, DC

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