Vets could get college credit for service

A state proposal could allow veterans returning home with valuable military experience to have an easier time getting college credit or professional licenses in Ohio.

In Gov. John Kasich’s 1,600-page budget update bill, the administration is pushing for ways for veterans to earn college credit at no charge based on their military training and experience, give them priority status for college course registration, and cut the red tape involved in getting professional licenses from dozens of state regulatory agencies.

“They deserve our help to transition back into civilian life,” Kasich said in his 2014 State of the State address. For example, veterans who drove heavy equipment in a war should get credit when they’re seeking a commercial drivers’ license in Ohio, he said. “If you can drive a truck from Kabul to Kandahar, Afghanistan, don’t you think you should be able to drive a truck from Columbus to Cleveland?”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor promoted the program at the Ohio National Guard Base in Springfield on Wednesday. She said insurance and other industries are expecting to hire workers in the next few years, and many of the skills veterans have earned are transferable to a variety of fields.

Veterans have busy lives, she said, and it makes sense to give them priority when registering for college courses.

“It’s good to give our veterans the first shot at a chance to get in,” Taylor said.

Kasich also is scheduled to appear at Wright State University on Friday to advocate for the changes.

Ohio is home to about 900,000 veterans as well as Wright Patterson Air Force Base and other military installations.

Officials from Ed FitzGerald’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. FitzGerald is a Democrat running against Kasich in the fall.

Master Sgt. Nathan Lukey, a telecommunication specialist with the Ohio National Guard in Springfield, is taking courses at Indiana Wesleyan University to earn a degree in business information systems.

Lukey is close to earning his degree, but said he knows several colleagues who could benefit from the initiative. Years ago, he said his aunt was a nurse in the military but had difficulty when she tried to transition to a civilian career.

“It’s great that they’re focusing attention on this,” he said. “A lot of my friends who are in the military have experienced this issue.”

The pending legislation would require that public colleges and universities designate a point person for vets seeking to earn college credit based on their military training or experience; give veterans priority registration for courses; set up an appeals process for resolving disputes over credit for military experience. The schools wouldn’t be permitted to charge fees for the credit-for-military-experience.

The bill would also prompt boards that regulate professional licensure to clarify their rules on awarding veterans credit for relevant military experience. There are some 43 professional licenses overseen by state agencies.

Licensing boards would also be required to register their tests with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs so vets can be reimbursed testing fees under the GI Benefits. Plus, vets and their spouses will get prioritized and expedited service from the licensing boards, according to the bill.

Tracy Intihar, Kasich’s director of the office of workforce transformation, said there is a big variation on how boards handle awarding credit for military experience for those applying for occupational licenses.

The Kasich administration also wants to expand and simplify the definition of veteran to cover anyone who served in the military and was honorably discharged. Currently, different definitions exist for different programs.

The changes may allow veterans to speed up their transition back to civilian life and save thousands of dollars.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey said the proposed legislation would prohibit public universities from charging veterans for college credit awarded based on their military experience and coursework.

A military medic seeking to become a nurse would have his or her military experience and training compared against course requirements for a nursing degree, for example. Carey said, “If they already have the skills, they’d be given credit and they wouldn’t have to take those courses.”

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