Fitting Non Traditional Students into the Modern Military

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High school seniors who earn “non-traditional” diplomas have been finding it hard to enlist in the Armed Services after graduation.  Currently home schooled and online students as well as those who have earned their G.E.D. (General Education Development certificate) are automatically labeled as Tier II candidates despite the results of their physical and aptitude tests.


Only recruits coming from traditional brick and mortar schools are eligible for Tier I status. Since 99% of all recruits from all four military branches come from the pool of Tier I candidates it is common for recruiters to immediately dismiss anyone without a traditional diploma before talking to them.


A law passed in 1998 require up to 1,250 “non-traditional” to be moved to the Tier one category. This equates to 10% of Army and National Guard recruits, 5% for the Navy and Marines and 1% of Air Force candidates each year.


Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez explains why, “Years of research and experience show recruits with a traditional high school diploma are more likely to complete their initial three years of service than their alternate credential-holding (Tier 2) piers.”


Lainez estimates that it costs $45,000 to replace someone who hasn't met their full term. The numbers collected since 1998 show that 28% of traditional graduates don’t fulfill their commitment as opposed to 38% of non-traditional who leave early.


Many people, including members of Congress like Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. head of the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel feel these numbers are outdated. He said, "We are dealing with new technology. We just need to keep adapting."


Most branches are opening their arms to home schooled students. The Army’s website touts awards of up to $40,000 for a 3 year enlistment but this does not extend to virtual students. The difference between the two is drawn in the parental involvement of the coursework and the accreditation process the online school goes through.


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools estimates 168,310 students attended virtual schools in 2009-2010. According to their organization 219 charter schools that are purely online, and 134 are a hybrid of bricks-and-mortar and virtual schooling.


Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif., who is a former Marine and the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, feels it’s unbelievable any recruits are being turned away during wartime. Speaking of non-traditional graduates he says, "Their level of education is often right on par with traditional public school graduates." 


Many of these potential recruits rely on the opportunity to join the military to further their education and future career prospects. One way around the current red tape is for non-traditional diploma holders to accrue 15 or more college credits. This puts them back into the Tier I category and more likely to be recruited. 

Are you a Tier-2 student who has tried to join the military?  What were your results?


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