Saddleback College receives $2 million to aid in veterans’ education

Chase Tolles (student veteran) Marlando Wilmot (student veteran) Jason Conway (Veterans Counselor) and Terrence Nelson (VETS Coordinator) (Nathan Clifton/contributor)

Saddleback College was awarded $2 million from the California Department of Finance for the college’s Higher Education program, the Veteran Articulation Track initiative. This award will aid in innovation of the school’s ability to help students complete their degrees in a timely manner, as well as make college more affordable.

With many veterans learning technical skills during their time in the armed forces, there are only a select few elective credits that can attribute to those skills.

This lack of available credits results in a much longer path to a degree than what should be needed. What results from this is a student veteran using his/her entire 36 months of educational benefits from their GI bill without coming close to earning their degree.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Saddleback College and our student veterans to apply their prior military training towards a degree or certificate,” said Saddleback College President Tod Burnett. “These funds are a game changer for the landscape of higher education for veterans in our state.”

The V-CAT initiative will coincide with Saddleback’s award winning Veterans Education and Transition Services program. This coalition of these two programs will lead to an interactive online resource for student veterans to gain more knowledge about career and transfer planning, as well as learn about what military training is deemed credible toward their degree. Medical practice, foreign communication skills, and mechanical engineering are included in what will transfer over to college credits at Saddleback College.

“Folks will be surprised when they get into the world of looking at military training credit how legitimate these trainings are,” said VETS Coordinator/Counselor Terence Nelson.

The $2 million from the grant will play a big role in giving compensation to the faculty who lack the appropriate time to articulate the curriculum which transfers to credential units. This is where the online resource comes in, called the “military to college completion” toolkit. Students can simply go online to see what training qualifies and what doesn’t. The implementation of this toolkit will save valuable time in the crossway between training and semester units.

“There’s no reason to give somebody with that much training, millions of dollars in taxpayer training, college credit,” said Veterans Counselor Kolin Williams.

“We shouldn’t have a Sergeant Major have to work for two years at community college just to go get a bachelor’s degree and transfer out. That’s not the way it should work.”

While this award was an accomplishment that was years in the making, this is only a small feat in the scope of things.

While Saddleback is currently partnered with CSU Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona and the CSU Office of the Chancellor, Nelson stressed that the main goal is to implement this articulation system throughout every California state school to help student veterans and active duty military.
“Our goal is the scale up to California,” Nelson said.

Though this is a step in the right direction, it is evident that there is only room to grow by assisting other schools to include this initiative in their system, resulting in allowing an easier pathway to a degree for those who have served our country.