In September 2013, Excelsior College released the results of its most recent Patriot Poll which was conducted nationwide among active duty military personnel and veterans for Excelsior by the Center for Research and Public Policy. The findings yielded insight into a host of veteran-related issues, including the types of services returning personnel are seeking from colleges.
According to the poll, 83.9 percent of all respondents believe it is “very important” or “somewhat important” that a college or university provides advice on the acceptance of credit earned through military training, exams, life experience, and college courses taken elsewhere. These results are not surprising; the acceptance of transfer credit and military training that has been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE) for college-level credit place veterans and active duty personnel closer to their educational goals and reduces the cost of a college degree.
Respondents also found the following veterans services “very important” or “somewhat important”:
- Job placement support (82.4 percent).
- College-based partnerships with Veteran service organizations offering vets and their spouses reduced tuition and fees for two- and four-year degrees (80.6 percent).
- Veteran-to-veteran mentorship program for students new to college and/or online courses (80.3 percent)
- Online orientation courses offering strategies and tools for college and career success (76.9 percent).
Excelsior is one of the few colleges in the nation that provide an online orientation course specifically for veterans. ”Success Strategies for Military and Veterans” provides college and career orientation to veterans and military members and teaches transition strategies for those entering the civilian workforce after a military career. The course earned the 2010-2011 Innovation Award from the Center for Transforming Student Services (CENTSS).
In particular, the course introduces students to Excelsior’s academic resources, such as its Online Writing Lab, and the financial aid process including available grants and scholarships and how to use VA Education benefits. Students can explore different career opportunities based on their degree, set goals and create their own personal action plans. They will also develop networking skills, craft an “elevator speech”, and learn about resumes, interviews, salary negotiations and more.
In addition, Maribeth Gunner, director of career services at Excelsior and an instructor for the course, offers career planning and self-assessment tools to help students identify the skills they have acquired while in the military and learn how to translate them during the civilian interview process.
Excelsior College is among the original 250 college and university signatories to the Department of Education’s 8 Keys to Success for veterans on campus. Many of the Patriot Poll findings mirror the objectives outlined in the initiative, including the implementation of an “early alert” system for veterans in academic trouble, the creation of a designated space for veterans and providing professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.