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DoD Evaluating Recruits with Alternative Diplomas

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 1999 – Each of the military services can now annually enlist 2,500 more individuals with certain alternative diplomas under a five-year DoD pilot program that began Oct. 1.

The DoD program allows the services to recruit more home- schooled graduates and more general education development certificate holders from the National Guard Youth Challenge Program each year. The Guard program helps young high school dropouts earn a GED and qualify to enlist.

During the program, DoD will count these enlistees as if they are high school diploma graduates, said Air Force Col. James R. Holaday, deputy director for accession policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy. With their new status, home-schoolers and GED holders in the program qualify for the educational incentives and enlistment bonuses offered traditional diploma grads, he said.

Each service offers the Montgomery GI Bill, other educational incentives and enlistment bonuses of up to $12,000 for certain job specialties, Holaday added.

One standing DoD goal has been for at least 90 percent of its recruits to be high school diploma graduates. Holaday said all GED holders and home-schooled graduates previously were included in the remaining 10 percent -- and non-Youth Challenge GED holders still are.

He said program participants must still fully qualify to enlist and emphasized the department hasn't lowered its aptitude or other quality standards. For instance, he noted, DoD hasn't changed its benchmark on the percentage of recruits who score in the top half on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, a subset of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

"We ask the services to recruit at least 60 percent of their new recruits from those scoring in the upper half of the test -- they recruited 68 percent in 1998," he said. DoD also limits to 4 percent the recruits who score in the lowest acceptable category -- roughly the bottom third of all American youth. For the last eight years, Holaday said, less than 1 percent of the services' recruits came from this category.

He said DoD officials believe home-schooled students are a new market of recruitable individuals. "We have not had enough home- schooled recruits to analyze how they perform," he added, "but we have people in our service academies who were home-schooled and they are doing very well." DoD hopes to attract enough alternative diploma holders so it can analyze reliably how well they perform.

The Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded think tank, will collect and analyze program data. It will also estimate the number of home-schooled graduates in the youth population and develop ways to identify them for recruitment.

The pilot program ends Sept. 30, 2003. By Feb. 1, 2004, the defense secretary will report to Congress the data comparing alternative diploma enlistees and traditional high school graduates in the areas of attrition, discipline, adaptability to military life, aptitude for mastering skills necessary for technical specialties and re-enlistment.

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