Washington’s veterans have a new way to gain recognition for their service while accessing the benefits of a college degree. Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 5969 which grants academic credit for military training. State Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who sponsored the legislation, called the new law a major benefit for veterans, “who often face hardships as they transition back into civilian life and need to build new careers.”
The law now requires Washington’s colleges and universities to adopt policies on awarding academic credit to individuals for certain military training courses or programs by the year 2016. There are currently 22,000 veterans, active-duty personnel and their dependents enrolled in Washington’s community and technical colleges and the University of Washington has 1,344 enrolled veterans alone.
“We ask so much of our brave men and women in uniform,” said O’Ban, whose two sons serve in the military, “They’ve made life and death decisions, mastered complicated information technology and communication systems and managed millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. This is valuable training and work they’ve accomplished and worthy of college credit.”
Tom Jenkins, President of the Husky United Military Veterans heralded the signing. “I’m very excited about this bill. This is the biggest thing for veterans as it directly recognizes their accomplishments. It says ‘thank you’ for being a medical professional, or being an engineer, for example. For those who choose to continue in their field of training this is a great opportunity,” Jenkins said.
O’Ban thanked Mark San Souci from the Department of Defense, members of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and Alfie Alvardo-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs for their work to pass the landmark legislation. “From the beginning there was strong consensus that military training should count toward a college degree,” said O’Ban. “Many veteran organizations are on the front lines with military members who are struggling to build a new career and to transition into civilian life. This is an open door for new opportunities.”
Among the law’s requirements, the individual must be enrolled in college and must have successfully completed any military training course or program as part of the individual’s military service that meets certain criteria. In addition, each institution of higher education must provide a copy of its newly-created policy to any enrolled students who listed prior or present military service in their admission applications.
“There are so many ways to give back to our veterans who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms,” said O’Ban, “Opening the door to a college education is a great way to say ‘thank you.”
According to Defense Manpower Data Center, 11,173 service members left the military in 2013 and made Washington state their home and more than 600,000 veterans call Washington home.