Veterans at UNC want their service to count for additional credits

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Robertson Greenbacker, a junior from South Boston Virginia, who was in the Marine Corps before enrolling in UNC, understands why credits from the military won’t transfer to UNC.

“The only problem I had with transfer credits was LFIT.”

“The Marine Corps doesn’t offer classes of the same difficulty that UNC does. What we do in the Marine Corps doesn’t apply to the classwork we do at UNC,” Greenbacker said.

Robertson Greenbacker served two tours in Iraq as a Reconnaissance Marine, but when he transferred to UNC, none of his experience in the armed forces was guaranteed to count as class credit.

“For some credits, I didn’t even bother because there were so many different places to go and people to sift through,” he said. “There was no point in figuring it all out and going through the process.”

Veterans say the problem at UNC is two-fold: it’s difficult to gain academic credit for skills gained in the armed forces, and the process to get these credits can be confusing and subjective.

Ryan Beck, UNC’s advisor for military affairs, said the University is working to help student veterans cut through the red tape.

“The best way of doing that is not through parade or ceremony, but with robust services intended to support their transition into civilian life,” he said.

In April, UNC began waiving the lifetime fitness requirement for veterans, the only credit it automatically grants.

Zach Johnson, a UNC student veteran who died in a motorcycle accident Dec. 30, pushed for this inclusion, Beck said.

But if a veteran wants to get credit for any other class, he or she must submit a form to the class’ department and wait up to 30 days before finding out if the credit will count, said Ashley Memory, assistant director of admissions.

Beck said the system needs to be streamlined. “The process could end up being subjective from individual to individual. A common answer is you have to go to the department to argue for it, but two people might go and get different results,” he said.

Beck said the University is lagging behind some other UNC-system schools, which let veterans know which classes will be waived before they even apply, such as UNC-Wilmington.

“(UNC-W) kept them all in one single process so that it’s the same for everyone who comes in,” he said.

Lt. Colonel Megan Stallings, chairwoman of the military science department, said she and other faculty are working on a proposal to examine additional credits veterans could be eligible for.

She said the proposal should be ready to present to administrators in the College of Arts and Sciences by February or March.

Bobbi Owen, senior associate dean for undergraduate education in the college, said the college will review the proposal, which could go into effect as early as fall 2012.

In the fall, the University set up a veteran affairs website with information about benefits. There is no physical location for veteran affairs on campus.

Beck said the overall process needs to be simplified and better advertised to veterans.

“A lot of people end up deciding that it’s not worth it and end up taking the class. It’s something that people have definitely asked for, and it is a service that largely we do want to supply,” he said.

“The challenge with the way it is now is that individuals don’t know what to do to get that type of credit,” Beck said.

Veteran Sheldon Turner said he didn’t try to get credit for some courses because he didn’t know if his experiences in the military could count for credit.

“I’ve gone out of pocket to pay for stuff because I couldn’t get the right questions asked, couldn’t find the right forms,” Turner said.

“If there wasn’t so much red tape, if there was an already established system, if there was a department, one place you could go to, that would save absolutely everybody time and money — veterans and the University,” he said.

But Turner said he is optimistic about the future of veterans’ credits.

“It’s a transition, it’s hard, it’s going to be a change,” he said. “Carolina has done a great job making it as easy as possible, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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