Northeast State Community College is one of 14 colleges and universities in Tennessee to be awarded funding from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) through the Veteran Reconnect Grant for 2018-19. The College will receive $80,000 from the grant totaling $889,277 divided among the institutions.
The Veteran Reconnect grant focuses on improving the assessment of prior learning for student veterans by awarding academic credit, when applicable, based on their military training. The Northeast State Office of Veterans Affairs plans to use the grant to hire a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Credentials Coordinator. This person will work with academic deans and student affairs to identify academic credit markers for a student veteran’s military experience.
“With the addition of the Military PLA Credentials Coordinator we plan to improve our process for awarding and managing prior learning assessment credit for our service members and veterans,” said Jessica Kelso, director of Veterans Affairs for Northeast State. “By doing this we can potentially shorten students’ track to graduation.”
The full Veteran Reconnect Grant supports programs and services for student veterans at campuses across the state. THEC also provide technical assistance to Veteran Reconnect campuses around prior learning assessment for veterans. Veteran Reconnect is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase educational attainment in the state to 55 percent by the year 2025.
“Many veterans in Tennessee put their education on hold to serve our nation in the armed forces, and as a state, we have an obligation to support them in completing their education,” Governor Haslam said. “Through the Drive to 55, we can connect veterans with the postsecondary credentials that will help them further stand out in the workforce. Veteran Reconnect is one more way that Tennessee is investing in veterans and their future.”
Prior learning assessment at colleges and universities examines a veteran’s earned military qualifications. Veterans are granted equivalent college credit for those skills attained during service.
Northeast State currently awards some specific academic credit with the remainder being applied as a military elective credit. Office of Veterans Affairs specialist John Adcox, himself a United States Army veteran, said the grant puts a student veteran on a fast track to complete a technical certificate or degree. He also noted the PLA eased the challenge veterans faced when all their military training did not translate into academic credit.
“Our goal is to have a uniform system in place to streamline the process of transferring training into college credit,” said Adcox. “The training that veterans have should count for something.”
The Northeast State Office of Veterans Affairs operates veterans centers on the Blountville, Johnson City, and Kingsport campuses, provides a dedicated student advisor, and hosts veterans-specific orientations. The office also sponsors professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. A chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) organization was established in 2013.
“This grant is an important step forward in making Northeast State one of the nation’s leading community colleges for supporting our veterans,” said Northeast State President James King.
Northeast State served 179 student veterans who completed the fall 2017 semester. Kelso expects the office to serve an equal if not greater number of veterans for the upcoming fall semester. Northeast State was named a Top Ten Award Winner in the small community college category of the Military Friendly Schools ® list for 2018. The College is certified as a Veterans Education Transition Support campus by THEC.
“Earning college credit for military training can be the difference between a student applying to a school, or moving on to the next opportunity,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “When a veteran is able to use credit for their military training towards their college degree, they are more likely to persist and finish their program of study.”