AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry officially launched the College Credit for Heroes program on Thursday at a bill signing ceremony held at St. Philip's College in San Antonio. Administered by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the $3 million workforce development initiative is designed to recognize the exceptional knowledge and skills gained by military service members and award them college credits for their military experience, allowing these veterans to more easily re-enter the workforce.
SB 1736, authored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, seeks to maximize academic credit awarded by higher education institutions to veterans and military service members. Experience, education and training obtained during military service will be evaluated for college credit in order to expedite the entry of veterans and military service members into the workforce.
"The knowledge and skills our veterans bring back from service are an important, and all too often untapped, resource for our communities," said Gov. Perry. "While we can never fully thank them for their service to our nation, I am proud of the steps we took this session, which will help veterans and military service members transition to civilian life by applying their skills and experience to help them graduate more quickly and save money on tuition."
Seven community colleges were selected to participate in the College Credit for Heroes program. The colleges will provide models for awarding college credit by evaluating military training, including testing and prior learning assessments, which other Texas colleges may replicate. There will be a focus on allied health careers, and the initiative will partner with the Military Education Training Center (METC) in San Antonio to provide current active duty service members with an accelerated degree plan.
"Approximately 25,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans separate from the service and return to Texas every year," said TWC Chairman Tom Pauken. "These young men and women have answered our country's call under very difficult circumstances and they deserve the best support we can provide to help them make a successful transition to the civilian world."
According to the Texas Veterans Commission, Texas is home to 1.8 million veterans, including 450,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. College Credit for Heroes helps address high unemployment rates seen in veterans who served on active duty after September 2001.
"Service men and women are highly skilled, experienced individuals who have a tremendous amount to offer their communities when they return home after serving their country," said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Ronny Congleton. "College Credit for Heroes will ultimately give our returning veterans faster employment opportunities and help fulfill the workforce needs in Texas."
College Credit for Heroes also builds on the Texas Veterans Leadership Program, a TWC initiative that connects veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with the tools they need to assimilate into civilian life by providing employment and training services, resources and referrals. Together these programs help prepare veterans for academic and professional success.
"The colleges participating in the College Credit for Heroes program were specifically chosen to serve areas with high veteran populations," said TWC Commissioner Representing the Public Andres Alcantar. "This program will maximize the college credit that can be granted to these heroes for their military training and occupational experience."
As part of the College Credit for Heroes initiative, each of the seven participating community colleges will develop curriculum models that streamline the award of college credits:
Alamo Colleges, San Antonio, Texas: $412,000 was dedicated through College Credit for Heroes to partner with METC to develop an Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) degree in health professions. This will streamline transferable credits and accelerate service members' and veterans' attainment of the degree for those who already are certified in a health profession. Alamo Colleges will also develop a Career Mobility Registered Nursing program to enable veterans and service members who were combat medics or corpsmen to become qualified as registered nurses.
Central Texas College, Killeen, Texas: $1,053,000 was dedicated through College Credit for Heroes to develop a web-based application and database for veterans and service members to receive additional college credit hours. The initiative will standardize evaluations of military training and experience to ensure that maximum credit hours are awarded across Texas institutions attended.
Lone Star College System (LSCS), Greater Houston area, Texas: $544,000 was dedicated through the program to convene and organize the Texas Inter-College Council on Veterans, which will be comprised of representatives from the seven colleges participating in College Credit for Heroes. In addition, LSCS will support, test and evaluate the College Credit for Heroes website to ensure the appropriate functioning and award of college credit for service members and veterans and host a best practices summit.
Lee College (LC), Baytown, Texas: $303,000 was dedicated to identify, develop and support methods to maximize college credit and expedite entry into the Texas workforce for veterans and service members using prior learning assessment and credit by examination. LC will also establish a veterans learning center on its campus.
San Jacinto College (SJC), Houston, Texas: $212,000 was dedicated to develop a comprehensive analysis of allied health offerings at all Texas community colleges, geographical analysis of training gaps, existing and needed transfer credit opportunities, barriers to awarding credit for military training and experience, and external barriers such as certification, licensing or accreditation processes. SJC also will convene a summit on allied health training for veterans and service members.
Houston Community College (HCC), Houston, Texas: $257,000 was dedicated to develop and implement an accelerated alternate program for veterans who were trained as surgical technologists but cannot take the national accrediting exam because they were not trained at an accredited program. In addition, HCC will implement an accelerated degree path toward an AAS degree in allied health.
Temple College, Temple, Texas: $219,000 was dedicated to develop and implement an accelerated program in emergency medical services (EMS) for veterans and service members with military medical experience.
The Texas Workforce Commission is a state agency dedicated to helping Texas employers, workers and communities prosper economically. For details on TWC and the services it offers in coordination with its network of local workforce development boards, call (512) 463-8556 or visit www.texasworkforce.org.