Northeast Iowa Community College officials seek to bring more veterans and military personnel to campus by guaranteeing credit for their military service.
“I know it’s exciting for soldiers because soldiers ... are interested in speed to a degree — how quickly can I get my degree, and how much is it going to cost,” said Mark Bandy, an affiliated military consultant working with NICC.
The effort is among several that school leaders have explored with Bandy as they seek to attract more military-affiliated students. Officials are starting to market their initiatives to military centers around the college’s district.
“When we talk about (being a) military- friendly college, how do we show it?” asked NICC President Liang Chee Wee at a recent college Board of Trustees meeting. “We can talk about it, but I think through (Bandy), through his expertise, NICC is in a better place to demonstrate what it means concretely.”
College officials developed a plan to directly translate military experience into course credits for four programs. Credits are awarded based on the skill level that military members and veterans have obtained during their service.
NICC previously offered students credits based on their prior learning experiences. However, students with military experience often didn’t receive much credit because military transcripts or guidelines to apply credits were unclear. Officials also weren’t as familiar with the content of military training and how that aligns with courses, said Kathy Nacos- Burds, NICC’s vice president of learning and student success.
Officials have worked with Bandy to map out what students learn in their military training and how that can apply to credits in different courses.
“This is changing the whole ballgame for them,” Nacos-Burds said.
College leaders also are working on several other initiatives aimed at veterans, active members of the military and their families. This spring, 28 active military members, their spouses and dependents or veterans are receiving federal military benefits at NICC’s Peosta campus.
Officials have explored options such as waiving requirements to take course placement tests for military members and veterans and packaging together existing scholarships for military spouses.
College leaders also are considering establishing veterans offices on the school’s campuses where students could receive information and support and have amenities and space for networking and to connect with other military members and veterans.
Bandy also has visited military training centers to network with soldiers and commanders.
Nacos-Burds said the initiatives fit in with the college’s efforts to meet all students where they are.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to do it even better, and I think we embrace that for any of our student populations, trying to find someone to help us do it better,” she said.