By the time our UB audience reads this, the movie “Captain Phillips,” based on a true story, will be hitting the Hollywood box office. After keeping the crew of his ship safe, Phillips was held hostage on a lifeboat by Somali pirates. In interviews since, the captain reported not knowing that the ship anchored on his horizon carried US Navy SEALs—a team that would ultimately rescue him.
Since their inception after WWII, the U.S. Navy SEALs have intelligently vanquished US enemies.
In a fickle economy that places a premium on ingenuity and resourcefulness, the US Navy SEALs have served as a useful higher ed case study for all branches of the military. In the academic year ahead, returning veterans are the biggest single interest group in American higher education that cannot be left behind.
With this military intelligence in mind, we decided to make a reconnaissance fly-over to check out what’s hot for U.S. military training on campus and beyond.
Consider Fayetteville Technical Community College in North Carolina, SUNY Delhi in upstate NY, Community College of Vermont, and Lasell College in Massachusetts. Each has earned stripes as being among the American Council of Education’s top “military friendly” colleges. By offering high value programs, services, and networking opportunities, these schools go above and beyond the call of duty to promote the educational success of enrolled military students.
Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) launched a state-of-the-art learning assessment model based on the individual student’s Military Occupational Specialty. Retired US Navy SEALs earn credit for their warfare knowledge and skills execution—placing them on the fast track to earning their degree. Fayetteville’s President Larry Keen captures the college’s special U.S. Military education mission this way: “For all the sacrifices that our service members and their families have endured for us—at the very least, we owe them the very best education and support that we can provide.”
Flying over the Green Mountains, we learned from the Community College of Vermont that its student veterans are less likely to complete a degree than their non-military counterparts (4 percent vs. 44 percent). CCV’s research showed that success rates are much higher at colleges that offer transition classes and academic support services to student veterans.
Community College of Vermont faculty have developed a Combat to Classroom seminar, where veterans are taught to address new challenges of and issues that other military service members typically face. Beyond the classroom, CCV has also established job re-entry programs at Vermont-based businesses, including Green Mountain Coffee, Cabot Cheese, and Plasan Carbon.
At SUNY Delhi, any veteran with an honorable discharge is eligible for free vehicle parking and tuition remission. Committed to supporting our returning vets, the new SUNY Delhi Veterans’ office will be devoted to personally welcoming military student veterans.
At Lasell College, Project Dream Dress is spearheaded by fashion students who put a unique twist on how to thank military families. Fashion students serve as stylists and offer free tailoring to military brides-to-be. And Lasell’s Yellow Ribbon grants incentivize the enrollment of returning veterans by offering significant tuition remission for them.
Through the GI Bill’s On-The-Job-Training program, these and other military-friendly Colleges have forged apprenticeship programs with industry leaders like Pirelli Tire Co, Proctor and Gamble, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Cessna Aircraft, and Lockheed Martin.
Nearly 2 million service members have been deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. These troops are returning from active duty, in search of jobs and higher education opportunities, which our schools can provide. Through the concerted efforts of American higher education, these returning veterans will eventually benefit from new affordable higher education choices.
Keen says it best: “At the very least, we owe our troops the very best education.”
James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of The Sustainable University (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.