The California Department of Finance awarded Saddleback College $2 million under the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education program for the college’s Pathway to Completion – Veteran Articulation Track (V-CAT) initiative. The state awards recognize innovations in California’s colleges that help reduce the time it takes students to complete degrees and credentials and/or make college more affordable.
Currently, student veterans can only receive a few elective credits that contribute towards a degree, regardless of their technical and advanced training completed while on active duty. This extends the time it takes to complete a degree much longer than the 36 months of education benefits included in the federal GI Bill. The goal of the college’s multi-year V-CAT initiative is to reduce the time to completion for student veterans towards degrees and certificates based on their demonstration of knowledge and competencies, including skills acquired through military training, and appropriate prior experiences.
The V-CAT initiative will integrate the college’s award-winning Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) program with an interactive “military to college completion” toolkit. The online toolkit will incorporate career and transfer planning as well as other resources to assist student veterans and active duty service members. V-CAT will develop an “online credit translator” linked with the college’s academic planning tool to help veterans determine what military training is eligible to earn credits towards their degree pathway.
Tod A. Burnett, Saddleback College president stated, “This is an incredible opportunity for Saddleback College and our student veterans to apply their prior military training towards a degree or certificate. These funds are a game changer for the landscape of higher education for veterans in our state.”
Kim D’Arcy, president of the Saddleback College Academic Senate, said, “Investigating ways in which we can support our student veterans and assist in completing their educational goals is not only the right thing to do, but what is in the best interest of our college and district. We look forward to this opportunity and are excited for the future.”
The V-CAT initiative will open opportunities for faculty at Saddleback College and the California State University (CSU) system to review and consider military training and curriculum. The college will partner with CSU Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona, and the CSU Office of the Chancellor to implement best practices recognized by the California Community College Academic Senate and the American Council on Education (ACE). The college will be responsible for creating the model with the CSU system and later train other colleges and universities in the methods used, tools available, and credit articulated with the intent of applying earned military training for degree credit throughout the state.
Terence Nelson, the faculty VETS program coordinator and veterans counselor, explains, “Many of our student veterans come to us having amassed such a depth of knowledge and skills that it is difficult to tell them that our public institutions in California articulate very little to no actual credits towards their degree path. We aim to first investigate ACE guidelines and curricular standards in specific military training and experiences, then consider articulation agreements, and ultimately award appropriate levels of credit statewide in accordance with state law.”