Military Limits Recruitment of Graduates with Online Diplomas

The military has reaffirmed its position that all high school diplomas are not seen as equal by rejecting young, able men because of their non-traditional diplomas.

Melanie Smollin at Take Part uses the example of 19-year-old Douglas Cook, who graduated from the online Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School last February. Then he decided to join the Marines.

"He went through enlisting and going through everything," Cook's mom told the Patriot-News.

"They didn't seem to think there was going to be any kind of problem."

However, before basic training began, Cook was informed that because of his non-traditional diploma he had Tier 2 status — and he was told that at that time the Marines were not accepting any Tier 2 applicants.

Cook then applied to the Army, but they rejected him too.

"He just wanted to go in and serve his country, and they totally destroyed his dream," his mom said.

These types of policies may have shocked Cook and his family, but they have been around for years. Until a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act, home-schooled students were denied federal financial aid and faced barriers to college admission, writes Smollin.

"The Army and the National Guard limit the number of recruits they accept each year from non-traditional schools to 10 percent, the Navy and the Marine Corps won't exceed 5 percent, and the Air Force limit is set at 1 percent."

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said that the military limits were established to manage attrition rates, citing the fact that thirty-nine percent of recruits with alternative diplomas leave the military before completing three years of service.

The attrition rate is significantly lower (28 percent) for graduates from traditional high schools, she said.

However, Jenny Bradmon, executive director of Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyberschools, believes that military families who chose online schools right to feel aggrieved.

"A lot of our students come from military families," she explained, "and it was a huge slap in the face to their families because it's basically saying your parents are good enough [to serve] but their children are not."

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