CSCC receives $80K Veterans Reconnect grant

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG Staff Writer
Posted 7/15/17

Cleveland State Community College has received a nearly $80,000 grant to help better serve students who are U.S. military veterans.

The local college was one of 13 statewide awarded the …

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CSCC receives $80K Veterans Reconnect grant

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Cleveland State Community College has received a nearly $80,000 grant to help better serve students who are U.S. military veterans.

The local college was one of 13 statewide awarded the Veterans Reconnect Grant by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission this year.

THEC is awarding $760,781 to help colleges fund more support services and programs for students who are veterans. Cleveland State is set to receive $79,902.

“We feel very fortunate we were selected for this grant,” said Dr. Bill Seymour, president of Cleveland State. “It is an honor to be one of 13 chosen statewide — and one of only three community colleges.” 

The other grant recipients were Austin Peay State University, Christian Brothers University, East Tennessee State University, Jackson State Community College, Lipscomb University, Middle Tennessee State University, Pellissippi State Community College, Tennessee College of Applied Technology - Shelbyville, Tennessee Technological University, Tennessee Wesleyan University, University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The grants ranged from $7,500 to $80,000.

According to THEC, the purpose of the Veterans Reconnect Grant is to help colleges and universities improve the process of providing Prior Learning Assessments for veterans.

Even if a prospective student has not attended college before but has a good amount of work experience, he or she may be able to receive college credit for the work. The process of evaluating a person’s work experience is referred to as Prior Learning Assessment.

“Receiving proper credit for military training was a frustration we heard from veterans. Veterans Reconnect is one of the ways we are easing that frustration,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “Veterans and service members are often forced to decide on a program of study before they know how their military training will be applied to academic coursework.” 

Seymour noted Cleveland State is a “veteran-friendly” institution which already has a system of Prior Learning Assessment in place. However, this grant will allow the college to more specifically target veterans.

Cleveland State plans to use its funds to hire a new prior-learning specialist who will support efforts to help veterans turn their training and experience into college credit.

According to the college, this person will focus on “increasing awareness and support from faculty and staff; enhancing competence of faculty and staff in evaluating military and other prior learning experiences for credit; and improving communication to prospective adult students and student veterans to encourage them to pursue credit for prior learning.” 

Dr. Michael Stokes, vice president for student services at Cleveland State, said he and his team are “excited” to build upon the work which has already been done to develop the prior-learning assessment process there.

“We have a number of ways in which adults may receive credit for their work experience, training or other forms of learning, which can speed their time to completing a college degree,” Stokes said.

“Through the activities of the Veterans Reconnect Grant, we will increase our outreach to veterans and other adults so that they will be able to know early in the enrollment process what credits they may have earned through their previous training.” 

The Veterans Reconnect Grant could also prove to be helpful as colleges statewide are trying to encourage more adults to attend college, Seymour said.

It has been described by state officials as a support for Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, which represents the goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans having a postsecondary degree by 2025.

“In Tennessee, there are an estimated 83,000 veterans with some college credit but no degree. We are committed to making it easier for them to transition into higher education and graduate,” Haslam said. “Veterans bring valuable experience and learning from their time in the service, and through Veterans Reconnect.”

Seymour explained there is a “bonafide process” in place to ensure a person is already experienced with work which would normally be covered in a college course. Prior Learning credit is only awarded after this process is satisfied.

However, the local college president said many veterans do in fact have experience that can count toward Prior Learning credits.

Cleveland State will soon be focusing on ways to let more veterans know about this and help them navigate the process. The hope is more of them will be able to graduate from college quicker, which will help get them ready for their next careers.

“We want to do everything we can to support veterans,” Seymour said. “We expect this will allow more individuals to receive Prior Learning credits for the experience they gained in their service.” 

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christy.armstrong@

clevelandbanner.com

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