A Soldier's College

October 4, 2007

A new Army program under development would essentially offer college credit for on-the-job training soldiers receive.

“If a guy did [information technology] in the army, wouldn’t it be nice if he could go to work with most of his degree done?” said Maj. Mark Van Hout, spokesman for the U.S. Army Accessions Command. “Or a medic? Wouldn’t it be nice if they could use their medic training toward a nurse’s degree, or a physician’s assistant degree?”

“I’m not saying when that soldier gets out, they’d be a physician’s assistant, but that they’d get credit for that.”

Details of the program, still very much in its conceptual phase, are hazy. First discussed publicly during a Tuesday morning meeting between Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley and Pentagon reporters, the “College of the American Soldier” would theoretically allow a long-serving soldier to leave the army with a bachelor’s or associate degree. The army would assign credit to certain experiences on a soldier’s record -- leadership training for an officer, for instance -- throughout his or her time in service, Van Hout says.

In its fetal form, the program seems to share some of the same facets as civilian initiatives -- typically institution-specific -- to offer credit for adult learners for knowledge gained through work experience and prior on-the-job training, typically after they've been tested on their knowledge. Such efforts focus on fulfilling workforce development needs and making college more accessible by lessening the time to degree -- but are resisted by some colleges that want students to complete their coursework directly through the institution.

“Not that they’re not going to have that experience anyway, but that soldier, going into civilian life, they’re not going to spend as much time getting a degree that they already have some credit for. They’re going to become an asset" to their employers more quickly, Major Van Hout says.

Major Van Hout could not offer details regarding a timetable or any collaboration with colleges, but in his remarks Tuesday, General Freakley said the program would likely begin in February 2008, according to Stars and Stripes. He told the military publication that the Army is now “working with colleges to get our training programs certified.”

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