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Opportunities expand for METC graduates to further education

By By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 22, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

Leaders at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston are looking to expand opportunities for METC graduates who want to further their education.

More institutions are expressing an interest in joining the METC degree partnership program, in which colleges and universities who participate in the program agree to give METC graduates credit for portions of the training they received at METC, said Lt. Col. Melanie Ellis, METC Chief of Strategic Planning and Partnerships.

METC has agreements with 60 colleges and universities in its degree partnership program throughout the U.S., which include 1,000 degree pathways for former METC students who want to continue their education.

Ellis said there is a need for more partnerships between METC and institutions that can provide degree pathways for METC graduates. Since METC, the world’s largest enlisted medical training campus, was established in 2010 over 100,000 students have completed training at the campus.

“There are over 100,000 alumni of METC out there, and a third of them are National Guard and Reserve,” Ellis said. “That’s a lot of folks looking for educational opportunities.”

By going through a degree pathway program, Ellis said servicemembers or veterans can earn a degree or get certification in a medical field that will make them employable in the civilian sector without having to retake courses they took at METC.

“They get to start on the second floor instead of in the basement,” Ellis said. “It gives them credit for what they’ve already trained in and it is going to get them to degree completion or credentialing sooner.”

Colleges and universities who are interested in joining the degree partnership program can tour the facilities at METC and get a firsthand look at the resources the training campus offers to its students. METC also shares its curriculum with institutions, who review it to see if it meets requirements for their degree programs.

Once colleges and universities are informed about METC and what it offers, Ellis said they are convinced to join the degree partnership program.

Any institution that becomes a part of the degree partnership program is listed on the METC website, which includes a map of the U.S. that shows the location of the college or university with a pin. The programs offered by the institution that are compatible for METC graduates are also listed.

“Once educational institutions learn how METC delivers training and see the quality of our instructors, the quality of our facilities and the resources we have,” said Ellis, “they are excited to become a part of it and want to get their pin on the map.”

METC has degree partnership agreements with colleges and universities in 23 states. Ellis said METC is working toward a goal of having degree pathway programs in every state.

On Feb. 2, METC officials hosted representatives from the Lone Star College System, located in Houston, for an informational briefing and tour of the medical training campus.

Steven Hall, Lone Star College system director for veteran affairs and veteran services, said the college is considering joining the METC degree partnership program because it wants to make it easier for servicemembers and veterans to further their education.

“Our senior leadership at the system is really interested in recognizing credit that’s been earned,” said Hall, a 25-year Air Force veteran. “These military members have earned it. We are trying to move forward and recognize that so we can help their career progress or move them into the civilian sector.”

Hall said he has visited the METC campus several times and is always impressed by what he sees on each visit.

“I am always amazed each time I come back here,” he said. “The upgrades, the innovations that they employ in such a short turnaround time is just impressive.”

Dr. Mitchell Seal, Dean of College of Allied Health for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, or USU, at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, started the degree partnership program in 2011 when he was the assistant director of standards and evaluation at METC.

USU, based in Bethesda, Md., is the recent institution to affiliate with the METC degree partnership to transcribe credit and award degrees to select METC programs authorized under the new 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Seal, who served for 23 years in the Navy, said the degree partnership program started when METC instructors, who are required to have an associate degree, were having trouble getting colleges and universities to accept most of the training and education they received in the military as credit toward a degree.

By working with local institutions San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, Seal and METC struck the first voluntary degree partnership agreements in 2011.

Degree partnership programs provide benefits for former METC students and local communities, said Seal.

Seal said METC graduates save time and money by not having to retake courses they earned as credit at METC, and could potentially earn more with a degree. Also, he said the military and communities benefit by having a better educated healthcare professional on duty and when they return home.

“It’s just a better return on your investment,” Seal said. “Studies show the more education and credentialing one has, the better patient outcomes you get and at lower cost. A servicemember going home with more education increases their earning potential and taxable income, decreases military unemployment costs, and delivers a higher quality healthcare practitioner to the community who would otherwise not be there.”

Ellis stressed to METC graduates who go through the degree pathway programs to visit the education support office at their duty station to explore the options for how they can go about obtaining their degree or certification.

The degree partnership program provides potential savings to taxpayers because a former METC student who takes advantage of the program will not need to expend Tuition Assistance or G.I. Bill dollars for college credits they have already been granted, Ellis said. Also they are able to utilize their professional skills in the community.

METC includes 48 medical training programs and trains Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard medics, corpsmen and technicians. An average of 20,000 students per year graduate from the medical campus, which is the largest consolidation of the military training in Department of Defense history. Ninety-five percent of enlisted medical technical education in the armed forces occurs at METC.

For more information on the degree pathway programs, visit http://www.metc.mil/degreebridge.