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What Does “Military-Friendly School” Really Mean?

By Jim Sweizer
Vice President, Military Programs at American Military University

Update: 7/11/2012: Listen to Jim Sweizer discuss what being a “military-friendly” school means, and how that term has evolved over time.

Have you ever seen the term “military-friendly” used in an advertising campaign or on the Internet by a college or university?  Ever wonder what it actually means?

Although an astute military student could probably suggest several dozen factors relating to policies, services, and processes that pertain to military-friendliness, one only has to turn to Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) to acquire a grasp of what this term really means.

SOC is an organization that was created in 1972 to “expand and improve voluntary postsecondary education opportunities for servicemembers worldwide.”  Approximately 1,900 schools are members of the SOC Consortium.  All SOC schools agree to adhere to the SOC Criteria and Principles of Good Practice that basically stipulate an institution’s policies recognize the unique conditions faced by military students.  It is here where you will find the basic characteristics of a “military-friendly” school.

  1. Membership in the SOC Consortium
    Any school claiming to be military-friendly should be a member of the SOC Consortium, thereby adhering to the SOC Criteria and Principles of Good Practice.
  2. Recognizing Military Training for Award of College-Level Credit
    A school should have a process in place that reviews military training (technical school, professional military education [PME], and similar programs) for the potential award of college credit. 
  3. Awarding Credit for Extra-Institutional Learning
    This means recognizing credit recommendations for successful completion of nationally recognized testing programs such as CLEP and DSST.
  4. Responsiveness and Flexibility
    Academic institutions should have policies and processes in place that recognize the unique lifestyle of active duty, Guard/Reserve personnel and their spouses.
  5. Institutional Commitment to Servicemembers and Veterans
    A school should have a dedicated staff to serve servicemembers and veterans.  A faculty training program should exist which thoroughly explains the special needs of these groups, to include strategies to address unique circumstance related to mission commitments, deployments, work schedules and other factors impacting adult learners.

Whether a school has just a few dozen, or as many as 60,000+ military students/veterans like American Military University, being “military-friendly” is more than just policy and practices.  It’s a mindset that emanates from the heart and very spirit of our nation’s  servicemembers and veterans as they strive to better themselves through academic achievement. 

Jim Sweizer joined the staff of American Military University in April 2005 after serving over 33 years in the Air Force as an active duty member and civil servant. As Vice President of Military Programs, he oversees all military outreach activities and serves as the main liaison between the university and Department of Defense agencies.

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