EAST GREENWICH, R.I. — Rhode Island is looking to help more veterans get through degree and certificate programs quicker by translating their military training and work experience into academic credit.
Officials met Tuesday to talk about policies and programs that need to be in place to facilitate awarding course credit.
"We want to recognize their service to the country and all the skills and competencies they acquired in the military," said Brenda Dann-Messier, Rhode Island's commissioner of postsecondary education. "That's valuable. That's real learning."
Minnesota and Kansas sent representatives to Camp Fogarty, a National Guard facility in East Greenwich, to share what's working in their states. Both are leaders in that area.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has set a goal that by 2025, 70 percent of Rhode Island adults will hold at least an associate degree. Currently 47 percent do. Raimondo has said that "the surest ticket to the middle class" is a college degree.
Helping more veterans earn degrees is integral to achieving that ambitious goal, said Dann-Messier and Veterans Affairs Director Kasim Yarn. Yarn said there are about 70,000 veterans in the state.
The number of credits they can receive in Rhode Island for military experience varies by institution. Dann-Messier said a systemized approach would make it easier for veterans to get the academic credentials they need to get good jobs.
The education and veterans' officials from Minnesota and Kansas discussed how to evaluate military occupations and grant credits, ways to engage college administrators and faculty in the process and challenges they faced. Dann-Messier said she'll use their ideas to avoid starting from scratch.
Dann-Messier plans to continue convening the group that met for Tuesday's professional development seminar to make changes. Staff from several Rhode Island colleges, the Rhode Island National Guard and the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance were among the attendees.