Feb. 2015 SOC updates

DNS and GoArmyEd LOI Institutions

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) has a long history of supporting military students and Veterans and continues this support though a variety of programs and services within the Department of Defense (DoD) contract relationship. Although the SOC Consortium program was dissolved in December, SOC’s work efforts continue with other programs and services for the DoD.

One such program is the Degree Network System (DNS). Planned changes include reshaping and expanding the degree programs and course articulations that can help accelerate degree completion for Service members and their family members. Details about the program changes are still under development and will be communicated broadly when final decisions and directions are approved.

The new contract consolidates the DNS by removing Service distinctions (SOCAD, SOCNAV, SOCMAR, and SOCCOAST). Service members now have full access to all associate and bachelor’s DNS programs irrespective of the member’s branch of Service, based on the institution’s current membership type and degree level participation. DNS-2 and DNS-4, colleges that provide associate and bachelor’s degrees, respectively, will continue to operate independently of each other.

Current DNS Institutions should continue to meet membership obligations until officially notified of changes, and continue to send Student Agreements to SOC. SOC strongly suggests that no changes be made to publications, procedures or technology until further information is available.

As a reminder, SOC automatically receives Student Agreements for fully-developed degree plans from GoArmyEd Letter of Instruction (LOI) Institutions. GoArmyEd LOI Institutions should send Student Agreements for Drop Down and “Other” degree plans directly to SOC. Similarly, all non-LOI Institutions must send Student Agreements for all new Soldiers.

For more information about the Degree Network System, contact SOC personnel at:

Nancy Hamilton, DANTES Editor
For valuable education resources, check out the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) website http://www.dantes.doded.mil.

Putting off your education? Don’t!

pro·cras·ti·nate (verb) to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.
ma·ña·na  (Spanish noun) tomorrow; the (indefinite) future.
“I'll think about that tomorrow.” Scarlett O'Hara's famous last words in “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

I am the Queen of the Procrastinators. Every year on January first, I resolve to do my income tax returns as soon as those pesky forms arrive. And every year I flip the calendar to April and say, well, I won't go into what I say. Birthday cards? I buy them early, and maybe, just maybe, I'll mail them. Christmas presents are supposed to be wrapped in plastic grocery bags, right? Right? And don't even get me started on last year's vacation pictures that I was going to edit, caption, and upload to the cloud for everyone to see. In other words, I am too often like Scarlett – I put a hand to my forehead, close my eyes, and say, in a breathy Southern drawl - “I'll think about that tomorrow!”

Fortunately, one thing I didn't procrastinate about was my education. I started taking college courses way back before I joined the Navy (I wrote my papers on parchment paper with a quill pen, according to my smart-aleck sons). During my career, I used tuition assistance to take courses as my duties allowed, took a subject-specific GRE, and used ACE-recommended credits for my Navy training and experience. It may have taken me over 15 years, without much in the way of helpful education counseling I might add, but I finally put it all together in a degree plan and received my bachelor's degree. Not bad, considering my ‘mañana’ tendencies.

If I were to try the same thing today, it would go much, much easier. Now there are many programs and services in place that make the entire education process easier: SOC and MOUs ensure Service members’ credits transfer with them so that they don't have to repeat courses; the Joint Service Transcript (JST) and Air Force Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript consolidate military training and experience into recommended credits that college institutions may apply to degree programs to reduce time and money for Service members; education counselors, both human and virtual, as well as agencies like DANTES, are available to help with every step of the way. Many resources, like OASC/CPST and the MWR Library, are in place with the sole purpose to help Service members reach their education goals. Service members no longer have to go it alone to reach their goals. Expert help is there for the asking.

So, to all you procrastinators out there - GET STARTED, if you haven't already. What are you waiting for? Meet with an education counselor, formulate a plan for your educational goal, move toward it, and don't wait until tomorrow! Tuition assistance is here now, but changes are in the wind. Downsizing is on the horizon. Take advantage of your education benefits NOW, while you still have them. No excuses. No 'mañana'. No “I'll think about that tomorrow.” Get started today!

Now, I'm off to mail my Valentine's Day cards. Maybe I'll add a note to say that they are for 2015 and be early for a change!

For valuable education resources, check out the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Web site http://www.dantes.doded.mil/index.html.

Nancy Hamilton, DANTES Editor

New DSST Exam Launches in 2014

It is hard to think of any aspect of our daily lives that is not impacted by potential threats to cyberspace. Organizations spend billions of dollars each year to protect sensitive data and resources, yet hardly a day passes without news of a cyber-attack with resulting loss of business or personal data. Prometric is pleased to announce the launch of a new upper-level DSST exam in early 2014 - Fundamentals of Cybersecurity. Students can earn 3 ACE recommended semester hours of upper-level college credit if they take this exam and pass it. Fundamentals of Cybersecurity, includes content related to major topics in Cybersecurity including Application and Systems Security, Implementing Authentication and Authorization Technologies, Compliance, security pertaining to networks and physical environments and vulnerability management. The upper-level exam will be available in early 2014 and more information will be made available once the exam is launched.

How can this exam be used? Well there are a variety of Information Technology and Cybersecurity degrees and certificates available. Military members should contact their local or virtual education center counselor to find out which certificate or degree program is right for them and if taking this exam will be beneficial. This exam may be applied to other degrees as well. Your counselor will guide you through which CLEP and/or DSST exams will help you earn college credit while saving on college costs and reducing your time to degree completion. For more information on Cybersecurity careers check out http://dantespulse.com/?p=1253.

Here is a 1 minute video to show you how taking a DSST College Credit Exam can help you.





$1,000 Scholarships for United States Service Members and Spouses

The Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) is pleased to offer $1,000 scholarships each year to United States Service members (active duty/veterans) and spouses of Service members who are working towards the completion of higher education degrees. All applicants must submit the online CCME Scholarship Application, transcripts, and two recommendation forms NLT Oct. 1, 2013. For more information, visit the CCME Scholarship website (http://ccmeonline.org/scholarships) or send an email to scholarship@ccmeonline.org. Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor

Save Time and $$; Credit by Exam

This week I wanted to start a series of weekly posts that highlight benefits that can be used in pursuit of your education goals without using TA or incurring additional personal costs. The first is Credit by Exam. Save yourself both time and money by taking DSST and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests to help reduce the number of classes you may need for your degree program. You can earn college credit for what you already know by earning qualifying scores on introductory-level college subject examinations. Just remember the first time you take a test, it is fully funded; if you fail the test you will have to pay for any re-tests of that subject. For additional information visit the DANTES Exams page at:

“DANTES; Define Your Future!”

Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor


Military TA in Jeopardy Again?

News outlets are all buzzing about the coming changes to the military Tuition Assistance (TA) program. The Department of Defense (DoD) has been called upon to continually tighten its fiscal belt. Many “Quality of Life” (QoL) programs like tuition assistance have been evaluated for cost savings and efficiency. Unlike other QoL programs, DoD is leaving the execution of reducing TA costs to each of the Services.

So, how will they respond? There is nothing official yet. However, it is likely that each Service will keep its TA caps at $250 per semester hour for a total of $4,500 per year.  Also, Services may choose not to abruptly stop TA coverage as most did in March this year. What may change is who is eligible to participate in the TA program. In an Army Times article today, Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler mentioned possible changes for the Army that may include limiting TA based on time in Service and rank.

While official announcements on new TA policies may not be released until 1 Oct., service members still have options. If you no longer qualify or have limited TA funds for FY 14, there are other ways to earn college credit and pay for school that you can take advantage of today. DANTES exists to offer service members programs that are alternatives to TA. Check out these articles to learn more:

TA Alternatives: Ways to Pay for College

TA Alternatives: Ways to Earn College Credit

Find Scholarship Money

Tips for Applying for Scholarships

GI Bill Assistance

Graduate Student Funding Opportunities

Top CLEP and DSST for College Credit

Saving on College Costs

To discuss your options, contact your local or virtual education center counselor today!

Find Your Military Education Center


Taheesha Quarells is the Education Project Manager at DANTES. With over 10 years of experience, she is dedicated to expanding academic and career development opportunities for military members, veterans, and their family members.


Did You Know That You Could Earn College Credits Through Testing?

You can earn college credit for what you already know by earning qualifying scores on introductory-level college subject examinations. The DANTES-managed academic testing program provides fully funded exams for active duty, Guard, Reserve, and Coast Guard, including: GED; CLEP and DSST; undergraduate/ graduate admission exams; and teacher certification. Successful completion of these tests can save Service members significant time and money, and spare Tuition Assistance (TA) and/or GI benefits. Nearly 118,000 credits were earned last year through CLEP and DSST programs with a cost avoidance of $25M in TA. Just remember the first time you take a test it is fully funded. If you fail the test, you will have to pay for any re-tests of that subject. Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor

Back to School: Starting School (Part 4 of 5)

This is part four of the Back to School series designed to be a step-by-step guide to make military members aware of the resources and education benefits that are available to assist in pursuing advanced education while on active duty. In part one Get Started with Self Assessments, you had a chance to take assessments that helped identify possible career fields that would best fit your unique skills, abilities, and work values. With this list of careers, part two provided tools that helped Explore and Narrow Your Options and begin to understand the qualifications that civilian employers prefer. Part Three provided tools to Map Your Route to Success by setting goals and choosing a degree or certification program to reach them. This article focuses on the next steps to actually getting started at a new college or university.

1.    Apply. Once you have done the work to prepare for school, as discussed in previous articles, your next step is to apply for the college or university of your choice. Most schools have applications online. While some schools offer no application fees for military members, most schools charge a non-refundable fee between $30-$75. During the application process, state-funded colleges and universities require certain documents to establish residency for tuition purposes. Be prepared to provide a copy of your orders if needed. Although each state has different residency requirements, since July 1, 2009, members of the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and his or her spouse, or his or her dependent children are be eligible to receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where they reside or are permanently stationed. Once a Service member or their family members are enrolled and paying in-state tuition, they will continue to pay the in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled at the institution even if the Service member is reassigned outside the state.

2.    Send Transcripts. Most applications have an area where you list previously attended colleges and universities. You need to request a copy of your transcripts from each institution have you attended. Since you are in the military, you have the option of also sending your Joint Service Transcript (JST) and/or CCAF Transcript. These transcripts list recommended college credits you have earned from your military training, education, and occupational experiences. Click HERE for instructions on requesting your JST. Many military members have taken CLEP or DSST exams to obtain college credit for common general education requirements. To obtain your transcripts, click HERE .

3.     Placement Testing. If you need to take college level math or English, many schools require that you take a placement test first. This test will determine if you are ready for college level math and English courses or if you need to take developmental courses to prepare. The Online Academic Skills Course (OASC) is a free resource for military members and their family that can assess and improve academic readiness. Take the assessments in OASC as practice for the placement test. Your results will highlight your strengths and weaknesses. If there are areas where you need to improve, the course designs a custom set of lessons tailored to your specific needs. Click HERE to get started.

4.     Degree Planning. Once your school has had a chance to review your transcripts, you will be given an official degree plan. This will list the course you need to take in order to complete your degree. If you are using military tuition assistance (TA), you will need to supply a copy of your degree plan to the local or virtual education center. If you are attending a school that is a member of the Servicemember’s Opportunity College (SOC) Degree Network System (DNS), then you are eligible to request a SOC Agreement. This agreement is a contract for a degree issued by participating DNS colleges and it follows students through their academic career providing a complete evaluation of prior learning, including courses from other colleges and universities, military training courses, military occupational experience, and nationally recognized tests, as well as clearly identifying requirements for completing the degree. As long as you complete 25% of your degree with the school that you have a SOC Agreement with, you may take courses at other institutions and transfer them back to your original school to meet degree requirements. This is particularly helpful for military members and their spouses who prefer traditional classroom learning but have to change schools due to PCS moves.

5.     Register for Class. Once you have your degree plan, you will know which courses you need to take. Most schools will not issue an official degree plan until all transcripts are received. Since this may take a while and delay being issued a degree plan or SOC Agreement, consult your school’s Academic Advisor for course recommendations and registration procedures.

6.     Pay for classes. As a military member you have several options when paying for classes. The first option you should explore is TA though your local or virtual education center. Your Service may require online or face­­-to-face TA counseling prior to using TA for the first time. TA will pay for up to $4,500 per year of college coursework. The following are links to articles with other ways for paying for school:

TA Alternatives: Ways to Pay for College

Find Scholarship Money

Using Your Post 9/11 GI Bill on Active Duty

New Student Loan Counseling Tools

7.     Buy Books. A few colleges will supply free textbooks automatically when you register for a course. However, most schools require you to purchase books. To save money some students buy used books, take advantage of book rental programs, or purchase them from popular online discount bookstores. Check out Save Money in College with Cheaper Textbooks for more tips.

8.     Attend Class. Steps 1-7 above may seem like a lot to do, but with those accomplished you are ready to show up or log in to start your classes. Now the fun begins. Part 5 of this series will provide things you need to know as you navigate your way through your classes.






Will your post military career require a college degree?

If a college degree is needed, start planning by reviewing your Joint Services Transcript (JST) to find out how much ACE recommended college credit you may qualify for from your military training and experience. The JST is available free online (https://jst.doded.mil) for personal use or may be officially sent to accredited colleges and universities at the student’s request. (NOTE: Air Force transcripts are still available through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) and the Air Force Virtual Education Center.) Master Chief David Acuff, USN, DANTES Senior Enlisted Advisor


Why You Need to Utilize SOC for YOUR Education

At no other point in history have military spouses received such high levels of national recognition and appreciation for their contributions and sacrifices than during the recent Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Military spouses and family members were explicitly mentioned in the April 2012 President’s Executive Order establishing principles of excellence for educational institutions serving military populations. In that Executive Order, President Obama challenged institutions of higher learning “to provide meaningful information to service members, veterans,spouses, and other family members about the financial cost and quality of educational institutions to assist those prospective students in making choices about how to use their Federal educational benefits; ... and ensure that educational institutions provide high-quality academic and student support services to active-duty service members, reservists, members of the National Guard, veterans, and military families”[1] [emphasis added]. Spouses and college-age military dependents comprise an important subset of this military student population.

Like the active-duty servicemembers, military family members frequently relocate and have their educational progress disrupted or delayed by the change of duty station. Growing numbers of military spouses and family members have aspirations for career enhancement and for successful completion of a credential, certificate, or postsecondary education degree. Until recently, military family members relied heavily on grants and scholarships to fund their educational endeavors. Now, thanks to funding sources like My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA), the Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Eligibility Benefits, tuition discounts and spouse scholarships from various organizations and academic institutions, military family members have numerous funding options and educational choices.

Military spouses who want to earn a college degree, but are not sure where to start, may ask, “How do I choose a school and program that are the right fit for me?” or “Is the institution appropriately accredited?” Additionally you may want to know whether the school will accept credit for prior learning, and/or award credit for national tests. How does the institution support its military students and their dependents? Should I take an online or classroom course? How will I pay for it? What are my education and career goals?

The vast education resources of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) provide military spouses with a variety of educational options for pursuing post-secondary education. SOC’s consortium is comprised of approximately 1,900 institutional members that enroll hundreds of thousands of servicemembers, their family members, and veterans annually in associate, bachelor’s, and graduate-level degree programs on school campuses, armories, and military installations within the United States and overseas, and through a variety of distance learning methods. Consortium institutions are military-serving with flexible policies that allow mobile servicemembers and their families to complete degrees rather than just accumulate course credit.

[1]Executive Order -- Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, Sec. 2. Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/27/executive-order-establishing-principles-excellence-educational-instituti

Recognizing the continuing higher education needs of servicemembers, SOC colleges and universities pledge to reduce or remove many of the geographic and institutional barriers to servicemembers and veterans who are pursuing a college degree. SOC serves as a vehicle to help coordinate voluntary postsecondary educational opportunities for servicemembers in the following ways: 1) Stimulate and help the higher education community understand and respond to special needs of servicemembers; 2) Advocate the flexibility needed to improve access to and availability of educational programs for servicemembers; 3) Help the military Services understand the resources, limits, and requirements of higher education; 4) Help the higher education community understand the resources, limits, and requirements of the military Services; and 5) Strengthen liaison and working relationships among military and higher education representatives.

The SOC Degree Network System (DNS) is a subset of the SOC Consortium. Made up of SOCAD (SOC Army Degrees), SOCNAV (SOC Navy Degrees), SOCMAR (SOC Marine Corps Degrees), and SOCCOAST (SOC Coast Guard Degrees), these colleges and universities are committed to helping servicemembers and their adult family members complete associate and bachelor’s degrees by adopting policies that in some aspects exceed those of the larger SOC Consortium.

SOC DNS Core member institutions guarantee transfer of courses in SOC DNS Course Categories, so that courses may be transferred back to the home college without prior approval, making it easier for servicemembers and their family members to complete associate and bachelor’s degrees no matter where, or how many times they move during their military career. As long as students enrolled in DNS degrees complete the academic residency requirements of the home college—25% or less of degree requirements (30% for completely online programs)—they may take approved courses from other colleges to complete the degree plan as they relocate during their military careers. The Student Agreement—a contract for degree issued by participating DNS colleges—follows the students through their academic career and provides a complete evaluation of prior learning, including courses from other colleges and universities, military training courses, military occupational experience, and nationally-recognized tests, as well as clearly identifying requirements for completing the degree.

One source of information on the SOC Web site is a series of videos developed to help military students understand the key factors central to selecting a home college that meets their educational goals and instructional needs. Envisioned as a counseling resource for Education Services personnel, these videos can be viewed by servicemembers and their family members to increase their knowledge and understanding of the decision process in the early stages of choosing a college degree program and an academic institution.

The videos were produced and directed by the Instructional Technology Department of Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri. Designed from a student perspective, these short vignettes present basic college choice information and factors to consider, steps in the decision-making process, and tools students can use as they consider their long-term academic and career goals, and prepare for their postsecondary education. The videos were created specifically for military student populations. Unique factors in the college decision process are highlighted for various sub-groups—the active and reserve components, veterans, spouses, and dependents. To view the videos and other resources on this site, visit http://www.soc.aascu.org/socconsortium/WhyAttend.html and look for “Video Series: Selecting a College That's the Right Fit for You.”

For more information about SOC programs and resources, visit the SOC Web site at http://www.soc.aascu.org/. You may also e-mail socmail@aascu.org or call 1-800-368-5622 toll free for answers to any questions you might have.

This article was originally posted on MilitarySpouse.com by Marcy Shapiro, Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges | AASCU