Updated: October 20, 2014
With the use of the Department of Defense’s three tiered education evaluation system, the education requirements for joining the military can be very confusing and frustrating. Today, an Associated Press article questioned the DoD’s stance on those who receive a high school diploma via an online course. Before we discuss the article, I provided a brief explanation of each of the three tiers;
In a nut shell, for a Tier I classification, a classification/credential that removes any education caps and allows for a service minimum ASVAB qualification score, you must have at least 75 percent of the credits earned towards your high school graduation requirements, per academic year, through classroom based (student-teacher environment), instructor-led learning experience. High schools, accredited Home Study, Distance Learning, Independent Study, Self-Study, Correspondence School, Cyber School or Virtual Learning Programs must be evaluated by the service’s educational specialist (use Tier I link below for a detailed explanation for each credential), and Post-Secondary credits (15 semester hours or 22 quarter hours of college credit) earned must be from an accredited degree granting institution listed in the current or applicable American Council on Education (ACE) Accredited Institutions of Post-secondary Education (AIPE) Directory. College credits earned through on-line internet courses from an accredited AIPE institution are acceptable as long as you are also attending classes via classroom instruction.
Use this link for a much more detailed explanation of Tier I credentials.
The most common Tier II Credential is the General Education Diploma (GED) (Interestingly, it was the United States military, during World War II, that asked the American Council on Education to develop the GED as a method to measure a person’s academic ability). Many programs could ultimately be classified as either Tier I or II, such as Home School, some Public and Adult schools that do not meet the minimum requirements for Tier I, such as a High School Certificate of Attendance or Special Education; also, successful completion of programs such as the National Guard Youth Challenge and the Seaborne Challenge Corps would qualify as Tier II. Tier II education requires a minimum of a 50 ASVAB QT.
A Tier III classification is for those not currently attending high school or alternative education programs and hold no secondary or post-secondary education credential. For the Navy, those classified as Tier III are not enlistment eligible due to a historically high first-term enlistment dropout rate.
Cyber-school students: Pentagon snubs our service, by Susanne M. Schafer of the Associated Press, details some of the issues confronting military applicants that complete an online high school diploma. The reason those cyber-school students are having an issue is because those with a non-traditional diploma cost more.
It comes down to money because its costs $45,000 to replace someone who hasn’t met their full term [and] data collected since 1988 shows only 28 percent of graduates with traditional diplomas leave military service before their first three years in uniform, while those with non-traditional backgrounds have a 39 percent attrition rate, [Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez] said.
Sometimes it may seem as if the education gurus at DoD stay about 20 years behind the real world, but where the academics one participates in is important, it isn’t the main reason the strict education requirements are in place.
Former Marine and Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., R-Calif., who is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said it’s unbelievable that potential recruits are being turned away during wartime.
“Their level of education is often right on par with traditional public school graduates,” said Hunter.
Academically, yes, but the congressman misses the point. It is all about conforming to the norm; the time in the classroom and being able to successfully work amongst your peers.
I know in the Navy, and I am pretty confident the other services, has tried to use other measures for individuals that did not complete a Tier I education. From age to work history and various combinations of those and test scores and years of education, mad-scientist stuff, but no matter what, the results always seemed to point to the same drop rates for traditional vs nontraditional.
Should those who complete an online high school diploma be allowed Tier I status? Because a few in congress have an interest, before that question could be answered, I believe recruiting needs to run a 1-2 year pilot program, much like we did for Home School.
In a time of ever decreasing resources, ensuring those enlisted have the best chance of completing an initial enlistment is the responsible thing to do for the American taxpayer.