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Vets to receive college credit for military training

By Zachary Peele

June 14, 2017

 Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1004 into law at the Colorado State Veterans Home.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1004 into law at the Colorado State Veterans Home.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 17-1004 into law this month, at the Colorado State Veterans Home at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Colorado. The new legislation requires all state institutions of higher education to “adopt, make public and implement a prior-learning assessment policy for awarding academic credit for college-level learning acquired while in the military.”

Approximately 400,000 veterans call Colorado home, with many of these veterans pursuing post-secondary education when their time in service is complete. Until now, however, there hasn’t been a clear-cut path for veterans who enroll in state institutions to obtain credit for education and training earned while in the military.

Metropolitan State University of Denver has been at the forefront of the new bill, advocating on behalf of these veterans seeking higher education. MSU Denver has over 1,600 veterans and military-affiliated students. Stephen M. Jordan, Ph.D., MSU Denver’s incumbent president, is a veteran, and his successor, Janine Davidson, Ph.D., is also a veteran.

For the past four years MSU Denver has been ranked by Military Times “Best for Vets: Colleges” as a top 60 college or university for veterans.

“Transition from the military to civilian life is hard,” said Jordan. “We have to be careful in higher education and provide the array of resources to help young people who have been in the military make those transitions. It’s more than just giving them the credit, but it’s also helping them make a transition from military life to civilian life.”

Danielle Forrest, the prior learning specialist with MSU Denver’s Center for Individualized Learning, has advocated on behalf of MSU Denver veteran students since the introduction of the bill. She provided testimony at the Colorado Legislature back in March and then at the Senate in April. “We’re looking for consistency and transparency across the board,” she said. MSU Denver data show that students who receive credit for prior learning have a slightly higher cumulative GPA and a lower dropout rate compared to students without prior higher education. In the past, it’s been up to an individual institution to decide what credits to accept for military prior learning. Some institutions didn’t accept any credit for veteran students at all. Forrest believes that it’s essential for Colorado institutions to accept transfer credit uniformly from other state institutions.

“We worked with a number of institutions across the state to make sure that once the credit is established at one school, it will then follow the student to whatever state school they transfer to,” said Colorado Rep. Jessie Danielson. “I believe that we need to do everything we can to make sure that Colorado is the most veteran friendly state…and part of that is offering access to quality high education.”

With House Bill 17-1004 being signed into law, Colorado institutions of higher learning can ensure an easier pathway to success for veterans. Because prior-learning credit policies must now be implemented, veteran students will be provided the transparency and consistency they need, regardless of the state institution they attend. Each governing board of a state institution has until Jan. 1, 2018, to create and implement a prior-learning-assessment policy for awarding credit for college-level learning acquired while in the military.

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