Guided Pathways and Veterans

by Dr. Samuel Hirsch, Stephen Bachovin and Dr.Jennifer Roberts

Community College of Philadelphia is the largest nonprofit higher education institution in Philadelphia, serving as a premier higher education and workforce development institution. From its inception, the College has reached out to our military veterans, National Guard members, Reservists and eligible dependents. Our goal is for every veteran to have a seamless pathway to pursuing future opportunities with career-ready knowledge and skills for success.

To help support veterans in their pursuits, the College established the Veterans Resource Office in spring 2008, while the Veterans Resource Center opened on Nov. 12, 2012, in the Bonnell Building. The office has experienced growth over the years due to the increase in the student veteran population with the advent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which expanded previous tuition benefits for veterans in order to make college an accessible post-service option. The goal of the Center is to serve our growing veteran student population. College enrollment, VA education benefits, scholarships and help with accessing the school resources are all part of the mission of the Center. The Center also provides a stressfree lounge for students from all branches of the Armed Forces. At the Center, many veterans help each other complete their coursework. With more than a million veterans returning home and going back to school over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity and a civic obligation to strengthen their pathways to success. While the Guided Pathway movement can positively impact all students, the benefits of reform initiatives will be particularly helpful to student veterans. With their military experience, veterans may receive credit for their service. The awarding of credit for prior experience is part of the intake process. A thorough review of intake and onboarding processes is an important component of the Guided Pathways reform. The College has already made important inroads in the awarding of credit to veterans by establishing college credit for military experience and training as determined by the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE analyzes each Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) rating, and associated ranks and grades, to determine if the required knowledge and skills meet the academic requirements for college credit. Air Force specialties are evaluated and granted credit through the Community College of the Air Force. By having an intake process that makes the awarding of college credit efficient and easy, the College is helping to reduce barriers to veterans as they move forward on their path.

In order for student veterans to qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they must enroll in an approved program of study. Changes made under Guided Pathways should make choosing a program of study easier. An important component of Guided Pathways is the concept of intentional advising, which should begin before a student even starts attending courses at the College. Students are provided with extensive information about the College’s programs during the intake process. For instance, all programs have developed curriculum maps, which provide a streamlined and focused plan for students to follow as they prepare for the labor market or for further studies. With a curriculum comprised of carefully chosen and sequenced courses, students, including student veterans, will be able to proceed through their studies more efficiently, increasing the likelihood for completion. Curriculum maps also contain information on careers and transfer opportunities. During the intake/onboarding process, students discuss such topics with counselors and advisors.

Education is a key component in the transition back to civilian life and employment for many new veterans. Enrollment in college allows veterans to upgrade existing skills or gain new skills in order to transition to a new career. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 1.6 million individuals used the Post-9/11 GI Bill between 2009 and 2016.

Here at Community College of Philadelphia, we have the academic and student support services to help veterans succeed, such as the Veterans Resource Center, Career Services Center, and the Office of Academic and Student Success. The College’s focus has been to help our student veterans along their chosen paths with the assistance they need. In our Starfish student monitoring system, which helps track student progress and facilitates more communication between faculty and students, veterans are one of the College’s largest cohorts of students.

With efficient intake and onboarding processes, intentional advising and effective curriculum maps, student veterans will be able to make more informed choices regarding the best program and career for them. With student monitoring via Starfish and continued advising available at the Advising Center and at the Veterans Resource Office, student veterans are more likely to stay at the College and achieve the goals they have set for themselves. The changes the College has been making and continues to make as part of Guided Pathways will prove to be positively impactful for our student veterans. From the College’s president and board members to the faculty, staff and administrators, all of us work to support our military veterans.