Legislature(2013 - 2014)BUTROVICH 205
02/12/2013 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 4-MILITARY TRAINING CREDIT 9:47:27 AM SENATOR BILL WIELECHOWSKI, sponsor of SB 4, introduced the bill. He stated that he has been working on the bill with the U.S. Department of Defense for about two years. The bill passed the Senate and House last year. It is the top priority of the Department of Defense. The bill directs state boards to accept relevant military education training and service as equivalent to some or all of the qualifications required while applying for a license or a certificate. It also authorizes issuance of temporary licenses or certificates for active duty service members who had an equivalent license or certificate issued in another state. He discussed a major concern over unemployment issues for newly separated veterans. The jobless rate for post-911 veterans was 9.9 percent as of last September, with young male veterans experiencing an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent. He noted that 25 states have passed similar legislation. He emphasized that the University of Alaska is doing a good job. SB 4 would simply codify some requirements. 9:50:40 AM CHRIS CHRISTENSEN, Associate Vice President, State Relations, University of Alaska, addressed Section 2 of the bill which directs the university's president to adopt policies and procedures to award credit for military training, education, and service. He noted that Alaska's university is already in compliance with this mandate. He related that the university is committed to offering quality educational experiences to active military, veterans, and their dependents. "GIJobs" is a magazine and web portal that exists specifically to serve people who are transitioning from the military back to civilian life. It has designated both UAA and UAF as "military friendly schools." Only 15 percent of all universities, colleges, and vocational schools in the country have earned this distinction, which is based on an institution's financial and non-financial commitment to recruit and retain military and veteran students. MR. CHRISTENSEN reported that the web portal "Guide to online schools.com," which bills itself as the most comprehensive authority on distance education and online learning, has ranked the most military-friendly online colleges in the country, and out of the multitude of schools that offer online education, UA was rated number five. He shared that the transfer of credit has been problematic at the university, and military transfer of credit is a piece of this bigger issue. He explained that the Board of Regents has adopted a written policy that says campuses must accept in transfer as much credit as is appropriate to a student's new degree and graduation requirements. All three campuses have established transfer credit policies designed to give maximum credit for courses and training taken elsewhere, including in the military. Awarding appropriate credit for military training is one of the university's responsibilities, and another way to show commitment to recruit and retain military and veteran students. He addressed misconceptions about the credit transfer process. Transfer credit processes at the university are managed at the campus level, although there is intentionally a great deal of uniformity in the system. With respect to credit for military training, all three campuses transfer credit based on recommendations made by ACE, which is the acronym for the American Council of Education. For over 65 years, ACE has had an agreement with the Department of Defense to review military training and experience for the award of equivalent college credits. Its recommendations on equivalent college credits are utilized by many colleges and universities across the country. The three Alaskan campuses have each entered into written agreements with the Department of Defense to use the ACE recommendations. He continued to say that the three campuses are also members of the SOC Consortium. He explained that SOC stands for the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, a consortium of over 1,000 colleges and universities that enroll military, and dependents in special degree programs, both on campus and through distance learning. Its purpose is to let the military get degrees, rather than just accumulate credits as they move from base to base. To be part of SOC, the campuses signed written agreements to, among other things, follow specific guidelines to ease transferability of credit between the member institutions and to limit the number of credits military students have to earn at UA in order to get a UA degree. For example, military students working on an Associate's Degree at UAA only need 3 UAA credits to earn the degree; UAA will take all the rest of the credits from other schools in the SOC Consortium. He said UAA is currently accepting approximately 51 credits per student from those military students who attended the Community College of the Air Force, the service academies, and other regionally accredited military institutions. At UAF, a military student can use approximately 30 credits of typical training for the Bachelor of Emergency Management Degree, or 90 credits for a General Studies Bachelor of Arts that does not require satisfying particular major requirements. He continued to say that neither UAA nor UAF have any limitation on the number of military transfer credits they will award. He said they used to, but they've done away with it as part of the continual process to review the system and make it more student friendly. 9:55:41 AM CHAIR DYSON asked how long ago the university made that change. MR. CHRISTENSEN thought that UAA made the change about two years ago. He shared that UAA awards over 15,000 hours a year of military transfer credit for training, for education, and even for time spent in the service. That number is increasing. Last year, approximately 99.5 percent of the students who requested military transfer credits received those credits. He said that Alaska is widely known to service members as a state that welcomes and appreciates the military. Alaska's university, as demonstrated by its existing transfer policies, reflects those prevailing social values. He stated that in the last 12 months UAA has done a number of things to improve the treatment of military, veterans, and their families on campus. CHAIR DYSON recalled stories of credit transfer problems within the Alaska university system. MR. CHRISTENSEN said it was an interesting question. He explained that 98 to 99 percent of all credits transfer; however, statistics can be misleading. President Gamble has engaged in the University's Strategic Direction Initiative, which is a comprehensive look at what the university is doing right, as well as wrong. It was discovered that credits do transfer, but the process is problematic, as is the amount of time it takes. In 2011 at UAA it took 45 days for the credit transfer process, but now it takes only 3 days. UAA transferred 275,000 credits last year or 41 percent more than four years earlier. They transferred in credits for 6,000 students last year, which is an increase of 65 percent. He concluded that there is a commitment to change the system. CHAIR DYSON said that was heartening. 9:59:47 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI shared that his staff member has had a negative personal experience regarding credit transfer from UAS to UAA. MR. CHRISTENSEN explained that credits sometimes transfer as general education, but not as requirement credits. He suggested referring problems to him. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said he would. CHAIR DYSON recalled President Hamilton saying that each discipline within the university has its own credit standards. He asked if that is still a problem. 10:01:47 AM MR. CHRISTENSEN agreed that has been a problem in the past, but he said the situation continues to improve. For example, 100 percent of general education credits are now accepted between UAA and UAF. CHAIR DYSON said he had an impression that the university was monolithic. MR. CHRISTENSEN countered that the opposite is true; he said it is the least monolithic institution he has been exposed to. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there is a policy in place for National Guard members attending school. MR. CHRISTENSEN offered to find out. 10:03:48 AM CHAIR DYSON shared a story about a military person's problem with receiving credit. He voiced appreciation for the ability to adjust credits for military members. He requested information about allowing military experience for credit. MR. CHRISTENSEN could not speak to that issue. 10:04:41 AM THOMAS CASE, Chancellor, University of Alaska - Anchorage, stated the importance of his deep personal commitment, and the University's commitment, towards the good treatment of military veterans. He spoke of his 33 years of active duty military service and said that Alaska is the most military-friendly state he has served in. He predicted Alaska's commitment to veterans would increase due to the pending "draw down of engagement" around the world and the return of more veterans. He shared statistics about how many veterans are currently enrolled. There are 1,850 active duty and veteran students in the UAA system. The university has established a Military and Veteran Student Task Force in order to take a close look at each of the programs. He referred to the example Chair Dyson mentioned and said that an attempt is being made to see what will work for that individual. He shared that UAA is one of eleven campuses nationwide to be accepted to participate in Vet Success on Campus. The university has a new Military and Veterans Student Resource Center. Much of the progress the university is making is impacted by legislative support. Aspects of the budget that go toward building up the counseling program are making a difference. He said the university is working very hard on the transferability of credits and making great progress. 10:07:54 AM CHAIR DYSON requested information about how military work experience, or "hands on," translates to credits, such as in the medical profession. CHANCELLOR CASE offered to provide specific examples. CHAIR DYSON requested specific examples of military experience that is considered for credits. He said he was impressed with the progress the university has made. CHANCELLOR CASE said, "We have only begun to fight." 10:09:14 AM MARC SAN SOUCI, Northwest Regional Liaison, Department of Defense, testified in support of SB 4. He related that in September of 2012, the unemployment rate for young, male veterans 18 to 24 was 18.1 percent. He said in 2012 a study reported that Alaska had 1,231 military veterans separate or retire back to Alaska. In the last two years, over 2,500 veterans returned to Alaska. He emphasized that he is not asking for direct occupational licensure if it is not equivalent. He is only seeking credit where credit is due. The public has already paid for veterans' training within the "Department of Defense (DOD) School.' The DOD recognizes the need to make credits easier for credentialing bodies to process and accept. Six pilot states are reviewing military occupations to see whether training and experience qualify for credits. He said there is a new Joint Service Transcript (JST), which will validate and document military credits so institutions can review them. He added that DOD is also working on determining which credentials relate to which military occupations. 10:14:21 AM RIC DAVIDGE, National Chairman of Government Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America, talked about the crucial 90 days between separation and the start of school or training or finding a job. He reported that his organization aims to shorten the 90-day period and provide training or work for returning veterans. He said SB 4 will help with this goal. He described the placement of two Veteran Services Officers on campus in Fairbanks and Juneau to help meet the needs of veterans. 10:17:38 AM CHAIR DYSON thanked all of the testifiers. SENATOR GIESSEL wished to focus on Section 1 of the bill which has to do with licensing boards and temporary licensing. She explained that subsections (b - e) on page 2 deal with activities of the professional regulatory boards. She said she appreciates (b)(2) which holds in place the criminal background check for licensing. She voiced concern about subsection (d) regarding a temporary license being issues for 180 days and potential for another 180 days. She said when she reviewed statutes for the Board of Medicine and the Board of Nursing where competence is paramount, she discovered that they both provide for a 180 day temporary license, which is non-renewable. She wondered why the extra six-month period was provided for in this legislation. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI requested his staff, Kendra Kloster, to explain. 10:20:32 AM KENDRA KLOSTER, staff to Senator Bill Wielechowski, sponsor of SB 4, explained that the language was written with the help of the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED). She said the language Senator Giessel is referring to is similar to language used for transferring temporary licenses for spouses. She emphasized the word "may" is used, so it is up to the boards on whether they want to extend the period. SENATOR GIESSEL informed the committee that there are boards that have temporary license limitations of only 30 days. She related her concern that if an individual is not qualifying for a permanent license after six months, it calls into question their ability to meet the requirements. It also creates additional administrative activity for the board. MS. KLOSTER deferred to DCCED to answer. 10:21:45 AM DON HABERGER, Director, Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing, Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, explained that the Division views it as a policy call. There are a variety of temporary licenses, either through statute or adopted by regulation from a professional board. The Division does not have a specific comment on the extra 180 days. CHAIR DYSON asked if regulations are run by the professional boards. MR. HABERGER said yes. He explained that the 40 professional licenses are split into "boarded" and "unboarded" categories. The legislature has given the boards authority to regulate their professions. The Division only sets regulations for those programs that do not have boards. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI agreed it was a policy call. He recalled a previous bill that provided similar provisions for spouses. He said the legislature is free to change that language. 10:23:29 AM At ease 10:25:21 AM SENATOR GIESSEL offered a conceptual amendment: On page 2, line 19 Add a period after "180 days" Delete the rest of subsection (d) There being no objection, the conceptual amendment was adopted. SENATOR GIESSEL moved to report SB 4, labeled 28-LS0016\U, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSSB 4(STA) was reported from the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee.