News Column

Military Likely To Alter Rule for Cyber Schools

Dec. 21, 2011

Bill Vidonic

Concerned student

Graduates of cyber high schools could soon be equal to everyone else in the eyes of military recruiters.

The House Armed Services Committee inserted language into the 2012 defense budget bill that says the military has to treat diplomas from cyber schools and other alternative schools the same. The bill is awaiting President Obama's signature, and the administration has said he likely will sign it.

That's good news for PA Cyber Charter school senior Connor Vulcan, 17, of Ligonier, who took an assessment test on Wednesday for entry into the Army. He said a recruiter recently urged him to finish high school at Ligonier Valley High School instead of the Beaver County-based cyber school to make his entry into the military easier.

"It would be a heck of a lot better if I could just finish off (at PA Cyber), knowing that the Army would accept it and let me enter the military," Vulcan said.

The military now limits the number of recruits it will accept each year from nontraditional schools to 10 percent for the Army and the National Guard, 5 percent for the Navy and the Marine Corps, and 1 percent for the Air Force.

"Years of research and experience show recruits with a traditional high school diploma are more likely to complete their initial three years of service," Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said this year.

Data collected since 1988 show 28 percent of graduates with traditional diplomas leave before completing three years of service, Lainez said. The number is 39 percent with nontraditional diplomas, she said.

Caroline Delleney, spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who heads the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, said yesterday that Wilson backs the change.

"The military should adapt its qualification standards and allow for capable students who either were home-schooled or enrolled in a distance education program to be considered the same as their counterparts who attended traditional brick-and-mortar institutions," Delleney said.

Pennsylvania has more than 25,000 students enrolled in 11 cyber charter schools.

PA Cyber Charter School spokesman Fred Miller said his school's policy is to warn students interested in the military about the regulations. The school advises them not to enroll at all, or plan on returning to their home district for their senior year. Several students, however, have successfully entered the military, he said.

About 2 percent of potential students are interested in military service, Miller said. The cyber school graduated 1,222 students last year.

Lainez said traditional graduates make up 99 percent of all recruits. The rest include cyber and home-schooled students, as well as those who have left high school and earned a GED.

The Defense Department did not return phone messages seeking additional comment.

Vulcan said the current regulations "frustrated me, to be honest."

He sees all diplomas as equal. "But I guess in the eyes of the government, they're not."

Source: (c) 2011 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

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