Share |

CCME Grapevine 2012 February

MAE 2012 Volume: 7 Issue: 1 (February)

Looking Back: 40 Years of Military Education

Mark your calendars now. The 2013 CCME annual symposium will be held February 25-28 in California where it all began 40 years ago! I will begin my term as CCME president following the 2012 annual symposium, and am excited to plan a symposium that recognizes 40 years of excellence.

The Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) had its beginning in California when in the early 1970s, a group of education services officers (ESOs) gathered to exchange ideas on how to best serve the needs of military personnel who desired a college education. In 1973, the first annual symposium of the California Community Colleges and Military Educators Association met, with John Harmes as the group’s chairman. Here, the ESOs decided that they would meet annually in February and that educational institutions providing education for the military, both on and off base, should be invited to send a representative to the symposiums.

At the annual symposium in San Francisco in 1994, the organization was renamed Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) to more accurately reflect the membership and its role in military education. Today, CCME continues to engage higher education institutions, government agencies and military service education offices in discussions and activities to promote academic success of active duty service members, veterans and their dependents.

If we revisit the last 40 years and explore the programs and services afforded to service members and compare findings to what exists today, what would we discover? If we explore the needs of our servicemembers today and compare findings to what they needed 40 years ago, what would we find? Would it be different? Would it be better?

It is during periods of transition, when increased numbers of men and women return from serving during war time, that we see increased focus and political influence on educational programs and benefits. It was a different climate back then, but like today, the demand to provide quality education and services was high and the need apparent.

With CCME celebrating the 40th anniversary of its annual symposium in 2013, I think now is the time to explore the history and reveal some of the major changes that may (or may not) have changed for the betterment of the servicemember.

It was also 40 years ago, in 1972, that Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) was created to provide educational opportunities to servicemembers who, because they frequently moved from place to place, had trouble completing college degrees. SOC functions in cooperation with 15 higher education associations, the Department of Defense, and Active and Reserve Components of the military services to expand and improve voluntary postsecondary education opportunities for servicemembers worldwide. SOC is funded by DoD through a contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The following are today’s criteria established by SOC for membership:

  • Reasonable Transfer of Credit: avoid excessive loss of previously earned credit and avoid course work duplication
  • Reduced Academic Residency: limited to no more than 25 percent of degree requirements with no final year or semester in residence (may require 30 percent for undergraduate degrees offered 100 percent online)
  • Credit for Military Training and Experience: recognize and use “ACE Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services” in evaluating and awarding academic credit for military training and experience
  • Credit for Nationally-Recognized Testing Programs: award credit for at least one nationally-recognized testing program such as College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), DSST Examinations, Excelsior College Examinations

In recent years, enrollment in higher education among active duty U.S. servicemembers has grown exponentially. Recent news and national events focus on matters related to the military, education and the economic crisis in the U.S. Gaps in oversight of federal expenditures for higher education are a major focus and concern of Congress. Congressional investigators have uncovered major gaps in DoD’s oversight of the tuition assistance program, which awards millions of dollars in tuition to active duty servicemembers. Similarly, reports have exposed the high default rates of students using federal loans to pay for high cost education programs. Although funding sources for active duty military and veterans come from a different funding source than Pell Grants, all funds are from federal sources and policymakers are beginning to not only make the connection but review the programs collectively.

This is not the first time that these kinds of problems have emerged. Following the creation of the GI Bill in 1944, thousands of career colleges sprung up virtually overnight to enroll veterans. In 1972, amendments to the Higher Education Act allowed career colleges to participate in the federal Title IV student financial assistance programs for the first time. Problems emerged and fraudulent practices were uncovered. In response, Congress passed a series of reforms in 1992 with strong bipartisan support. During this time, the 85-15 rule for Title IV funds was passed focusing on revenues rather than students. It required career colleges, otherwise referred to as for-profit colleges, to get at least 15 percent of their revenue from sources other than Title IV funds. Further, a “50 percent rule” made schools ineligible for Title IV funds if more than half their courses were provided through correspondence and banned incentive compensation for college recruiters. In less than 10 years, the default rates at career colleges fell from 29 percent to 9 percent from 1991 to 2000.

It did not take long for the newly strengthened rules to weaken under intense lobbying from the career college industry. In 1998, Congress reduced the percentage of revenue that schools had to obtain from non-Title IV sources from 15 percent to 10 percent. This rule, the 90/10 rule, still holds true today.

Another area of national focus today is on improving graduate rates at all levels, from high school to graduate levels. It is a top priority in the U.S. in light of data that shows the U.S. falling in the worldwide rankings of leaders in education. Legislation and political campaigns spotlight educational quality, urge higher completion rates and demand return on the investment of taxpayers’ dollars.

“Community Colleges are the unsung heroes of America’s education system,” said President Obama at the start of the first ever Community College White House Summit. I attended the summit, which gathered community college leadership and government representatives from around the country to discuss challenges in education. I was assigned to the break out group on “the importance of community colleges to veterans and military families.” During the session, what emerged was the need for increased collaboration at the federal level (departments of defense, education, labor and veterans). An interesting outcome of this discussion is that today this collaboration is underway.

During a presentation I attended at the August 2011 Coast Guard Education Service Officers Symposium, Carolyn Baker, chief of Voluntary Education, reported that she now participates in regular meetings with representatives at the federal level to discuss education in the military. The goal of the meetings is not only to inform, but also to better collect, understand, analyze and disseminate data. She stated, “as a result of the rising costs of education being supported by government tuition assistance and a recent audit by the Government Auditing Organization, the DoD is working more closely with other federal agencies.”

Other recommendations from the White House Summit are provided below. When you read this list, try to recall: What may have been President Nixon’s or President Ford’s agenda for serving the educational and employment needs of our returning servicemembers 40 years ago?

  • Increase partnerships between community colleges, state and local labor departments, and industry to provide certificate training programs
  • Offer more specialized training for veterans with PTSD
  • Collect and analyze more institution-level data from the most basic level of how many veterans are on campus
  • Increase collaboration at the federal level (VA/DoD/Ed) to better collect, understand, analyze and disseminate data
  • Increase vet-to-vet support
  • Examine the effective use of GI Bill benefits
  • Add a day to the TAP program when transitioning out to advise others in the same age group about the value of community colleges
  • Increase VetSuccess on community college campuses
  • Focus on special counseling, physical accommodation and mental needs of those with traumatic brain injury
  • Increase model partnerships like Camp Lejeune and Coastal Carolina Community College’s military academic skills program, where Marines get intensive math, English and reading skills to prepare for college
  • Offer professional development for faculty who educate veterans

The theme of the CCME 2012 Conference is “Salute to Possibilities: Paving the Way for Our Military Community.” The theme for 2013 just might need to be “Salute our History: How Have We Been Successful in Paving the Way for Our Military Community?”

I look forward to an exciting and productive year as president of CCME in 2012, and hope you join me in San Diego, February 25-28, at our 2013 Symposium to celebrate 40 years of CCME excellence! ♦

Joycelyn Groot Joycelyn Groot is dean, Military and Contract Education Programs at Coastline Community College and CCME's incoming president