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Published in Print: January 11, 2012, as Defense Budget Bill Lifts Limits on Cyber-Graduate Enlistments

Defense Budget Bill Lifts Limits on Cyber-Graduate Enlistments

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Graduates of cyber high schools are now equal to graduates of brick-and-mortar schools 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 was signed by President Obama on December 31, 2011.

That's good news for Pennsylvania Cyber Charter school senior Connor Vulcan, 17, of Ligonier, who took an assessment last month for entry into the U.S. 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 Pennsylvania Cyber], knowing that the Army would accept it and let me enter the military," Mr. Vulcan said.

Jared Dennis, 18, of Lexington, S.C., graduated from the South Carolina Connections Academy virtual school in June of 2011, but was told by an Air Force recruiter that he would need to complete one year 
of college-level classes before he could enlist. A recently passed federal bill outlawed such requirements.
Jared Dennis, 18, of Lexington, S.C., graduated from the South Carolina Connections Academy virtual school in June of 2011, but was told by an Air Force recruiter that he would need to complete one year of college-level classes before he could enlist. A recently passed federal bill outlawed such requirements.
—Mary Ann Chastain/AP-File

The military had limited the number of recruits it would accept each year from nontraditional schools to 10 percent for the Army and the U.S. National Guard, 5 percent for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps, and 1 percent for the U.S. Air Force.

Susan Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the Vienna, Va.-based International Association of K-12 Online Learning, an online learning research organization that advocated for the change, said "the provisions for helping students who are learning full-time online to have equity and access to the same opportunities in the armed services and beyond is a major step forward."

'Capable Students'

"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 earlier this school year in response to questions about the previous policy.

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

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Caroline Delleney, a spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who heads the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, said Mr. Wilson backed 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," Ms. Delleney said.

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

Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School spokesman Fred Miller had said his school's policy was to warn students interested in the military about the regulations. The school had advised them not to enroll at all, or plan on returning to their home district for their senior year. About 2 percent of potential students are interested in military service, Mr. Miller said. The cyber school graduated 1,222 students last school year.

Ms. 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 certificate.

Vol. 31, Issue 15, Page 11

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