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Bill to give college credit for military training passes committee

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 5:50 p.m. MST

Dennis McFall, deputy director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, said a bill aimed at transferring military training for academic credit would be a key benefit to veterans who received medical training during their terms of service.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Al Yardley retired from the Army in 2007 and this fall will complete a degree from Utah Valley University in behavioral science and social work.

During his 26 years of military service, 22 of which were spent in special forces, Yardley received training on a variety of subjects and earned 139 semester hours that were accredited by the American Council on Education.

When he enrolled at UVU, Yardley received a total of four transfer credits for health and physical education.

"It was disappointing," he said. "Some of that was college work, but come to find out it's worthless."

In his five years working in veterans education, Roger Perkins, director of the University of Utah's Veterans Support Center, said there are two "huge" issues that have needed legislative attention.

The first, securing in-state tuition for veterans, passed last year. The second, the transfer of military training for academic credit, is currently being addressed in a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

"This is a brilliant idea," Perkins said of HB254. "There's a misconception that military training is different from education. It's ridiculous and it's insulting."

Under the terms of the bill, veterans looking to complete a degree or certification could receive school credit for their military training, saving them the time and cost of taking courses for skills they've already learned.

The bill gained preliminary approval Tuesday, clearing the Senate Education Committee by a unanimous vote.

The bill does not specify the types of training that could be applied toward credit, but Pamela Silberman, director of communications for the Utah System of Higher Education, suggested that areas such as computer science and engineering or training as a mechanic could be among the fields of study where military training lines up with higher education.

"They're going to get a lot of skills in the military that would then be transferable," Silberman said.

Perkins said there's also potential credit for linguistics, communications, mathematics and geometry, depending on the individual.

"There's all kinds of stuff," he said. "Pick anything that the military does."

Dennis McFall, deputy director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs, said the bill would be a key benefit to veterans who received medical training during their terms of service. Despite their training, veterans often have difficulty qualifying for positions as emergency medical technicians or other roles in the medical field, McFall said.

"You have a real void where there's a lack of recognition for the extensive medical training they receive," he said.

McFall was also complimentary of the bill. He said it would shorten the amount of time and lesson the costs necessary for veterans to complete their education and secure gainful employment. He also said that because veterans qualify for scholarships and education benefits, it would potentially create a more efficient use of taxpayer funds.

"There would be savings on both sides," he said.

McFall said the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken a position in support of HB254, and generally speaking, the department is pleased with the work being done by lawmakers to help veterans.

"We do support the bill," he said, "because many of our veterans are coming back with exceptional training, and they're not being recognized. We see some positive things happening up there."

Perkins said there is still more that could be done, but the bill is an appropriate and needed step in veterans' education.

"What I saw in it was reasonable," he said. "The bill is adequate. Frankly, the bill is a long time coming."

Silberman said the higher education office had not taken an official position on the bill but had worked with Ray in its creation. She said potential students would need to present some form of documentation from the military of the training they had received, and then work with academic advisers and accreditation agencies to determine what credit could be awarded.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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