To complete my Public Policy master’s degree, I chose to develop a policy analysis aimed at improving enlisted commissioning opportunities at my university. The Army’s version of these programs is Green to Gold. (In the Navy, it’s STA-21, MECEP in the Marine Corps, and the Air Force has a few programs under the enlisted commissioning umbrella.)
The general problem is that my school doesn’t support prospective enlisted-to-officer candidates very well, though they want to—that’s where I come in. I sent out a survey just this week to several university admissions offices and various ROTC programs (of all services) to ascertain trends and capture best practices. Although the work is far from over, a concerning trend is already clear: many troops don’t have credits for core college courses.
As one survey respondent wrote, he has some troops thinking “their JST [Joint Services Transcript] of 11,000 credits will actually translate into a degree… they are not bringing any traditional post-secondary [credits].”
Another representative from an Army ROTC program concurred: “Many students only have JST credit not applicable to their degree program.”
Still another points out: “Most applicants have had college courses but not the ones we are looking for for the program they want.”
The lesson? Without basic college courses under their belts (like freshman math, english, and science), most active duty service members who wish to pursue enlisted commissioning programs will be unsuccessful as transfer admissions with JST credits alone.
One simple solution might be to admit those without credits as freshman admissions. However, besides the obvious problem that not all service members are eligible or can commit to four full years of college (not to mention the budgetary concerns from the DoD perspective), another significant problem arises: applicants’ high school records are generally noncompetitive.
I am not quite ready to develop policy alternatives (or “courses of action” if you prefer the MDMP terminology), and, even if I was, my “client” is the university, not the military. Here, however, I want to consider some potential solutions from the military leader perspective:
- Identify those troops in your organization who even just might want to pursue an enlisted commissioning opportunity. Counsel them about the challenges noted above and guide them to success.
- Encourage troops to take core courses that are clearly and directly transferable to other universities.
- Encourage troops interested in E-to-O programs to contact university admissions offices and ROTC recruiting personnel very early in the process—those folks can guide the service member in the right direction and make him or her aware of any institutional peculiarities.
- Learn who your academic rock stars are. As one respondent wrote, “Qualified students with sufficient credit tend to have very few issues.”
- Don’t let “starting from scratch” discourage a good candidate. If a troop shows interest in the program and has the heart to succeed (but not the academic transcript), pass along the advise of one survey respondent: “Green to Gold is a realistic goal…. Never surrender — and never back down.”
What advise do you have? How do you help to prepare those in your organization who want to “cross over to the dark side?” Feel free to share your best practices in the comments or on social media.
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