The Servicemembers Opportunity College, or SOC, provides active duty servicemen and women, their spouses, and dependents the opportunity to earn a college degree through an established and accredited college or university while avoiding the problems many involved in the armed services encounter: graduation residency and credit transfers.
Graduation residency refers to the policy many colleges have that require your last full-time year’s worth of credit be done at that school. It doesn’t matter if it’s full-time in one year or part-time over several years; the credit hours must be equivalent to approximately 25% of the degree.
This can be difficult for servicemen and women and their families to accomplish, especially since 1) you can be sent halfway around the world in a moment’s notice and 2) you may never come back to this duty station again. The SOC Program recognized this, and member schools agree that the school where 25% (or more) of your credits were earned will be the school that issues you a diploma, whether it be the first quarter, last quarter, or any combination of time and credit it takes to achieve that minimum 25% mark. (This percentage increases to 30% if attending all online universities to complete your degree.)
Credit transfers between colleges and universities are difficult. Many times credits will transfer but not be applicable to the specific college requirements of your new institution. SOC member schools recognize this and are committed to making your transition as painless as they possibly can. They guarantee credit transfers of Degree Network System (DNS) course categories between schools. This does not guarantee acceptance of every credit, nor does it guarantee that the credits toward specific degree programs will be the same between colleges; instead, through joining SOC and signing the Joint Statement on the Transfer and Award of Credit, members agree to accept as many credits as they can while maintaining their individual definitions of degree requirements (and academic independence). This credit agreement can, and often does, save you time and money between the approximately 1900 SOC member schools.
The SOC also allows for more flexibility in other aspects. Academic credit can be awarded for work experience and training, military or otherwise, that is applicable to specific classes, saving you additional time and money towards your degree. General Education Development (GED) or other high school equivalencies are acceptable for admission (whereas many colleges may have required a high school diploma for entry). And each institution must allow challenging of academic credits through one of three nationally recognized testing programs; again, giving you the ability to save time and money.
Each branch of service has their own name for the SOC program; SOCNAV for the Navy, SOCCOAST for the Coast Guard, SOCMAR for the Marine Corps, and SOCAC for the Army. Through the SOC program the Army also runs the Concurrent Admissions Program (ConAP) , designed to help increase the number of active duty soldiers attend college as well as to increase enlistment of college students into to Army. The Air Force does not participate in the SOC program at the time of this article’s publication.
Contributed by S.E. Davidson Parker