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Student veterans to be offered college credit for military training

The Texas A&M University System has announced a partnership that will provide student veterans course credits based on the skills they learned in the armed forces.

System Chancellor John Sharp and Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Ronny Congleton made the announcement Tuesday morning at the Military Friendly Symposium hosted at Texas A&M. The 13 A&M system schools will join the College Credit for Heroes initiative immediately, nearly doubling the size of the fledgling program, which has been partnered almost exclusively with community colleges.

"This is one of the most innovative and potentially game changing ways of dealing with veterans and higher education by recognizing that they do have experience. It wasn't this weird thing you went and did for four and five years and now you're coming back into the real world," said Rod Davis, director of the system's Veterans Support Office.

The initiative works somewhat like transfer credit hours. The A&M system campuses signed agreements with the TWC, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Killeen-based Central Texas College, one of the largest educators of veterans in the nation and a partner in administering the program across the state. The agencies jointly review initiative transcripts to award college credit to veterans and service members for their military training, but the system schools ultimately have the discretion to accept or reject individual course credits from the initiative.

Initiative director Apurva Naik said student veterans already enrolled at A&M system schools are eligible for credits based on their military service. He gave examples of an Army medic who could earn credits toward health or medical courses or an infantryman receiving credit for technical programs tailored toward the oil and gas industry.

"Now we're able to take some of the things, like firefighting and safety and OSHA training and things they learned in the military, and accelerate that toward certifications," Naik said.

Naik hopes that with Texas A&M on board, the University of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas State University and others will join.

"It multiplies our success exponentially," Naik said of the A&M announcement. "It takes a leader like Texas A&M to step up and say we're going to be the first to sign onto something that will support our veterans, and now we're getting phone calls from all of the other major universities in Texas. It really is a catalyst for change and Texas A&M -- I've been on this project since its inception and this is by far the biggest milestone."

The initiative was launched in 2011 with the goal of allowing veterans to more easily re-enter the workforce. The web portal veterans use to register, www.CollegeCreditforHeroes.org, launched in 2012 and nearly 20,000 veterans have created accounts and 2,352 have completed requests for transcripts. Based on its first year numbers, the veterans were awarded 25 credit hours on average.

The announcement highlighted an all-day event featuring military panels and was attended by university administrators from across the state. James Wright, president emeritus of Dartmouth College, delivered the keynote address. He spoke of the need for non-veterans and veterans to connect and understand one another.

"I've been concerned about the way that few people today know those who have gone into battle or even understand the nature of today's battles," Wright said. "It's almost sort of a video game war to most Americans, let's face it."

Wright also spoke of a social obligation to give back to those who volunteered to fight in the military and shared stories of trips to the Walter Reed National Medical Center. He praised A&M and others' efforts to educate veterans.

"The injured and disabled deserve far more than to look forward to 70 years of being wards of the state," Wright said. "They deserve more than that and we can do more than that. They are so eager to learn. They are so eager for training and they are so eager for opportunity. We have a responsibility to try and provide this."

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