Service members already use credit-by-exam tests as a shortcut to a college degree. Soon, the tests could function as a shortcut to college admissions, as well.

Starting as soon as January, the College Level Examination Program test, or CLEP, will allow troops the option to share their test results with participating schools, as well as nonprofit organizations that offer services to military students.

If your test scores impress schools, recruiters could come calling. And strong CLEP scores can earn you college credit toward your degree before you even set foot in a classroom.

At a conference on veterans in higher education Wednesday, David Coleman, president of CLEP-creator College Board, described this as “a focused effort to ensure all veterans, not just some, know about the opportunities available to them.”

The data-share agreement comes as part of a larger effort by College Board and a coalition of schools and organizations to increase the military footprint at schools with high graduation rates. College Board has also created a new, military-focused portion of its website, which includes more information about the CLEP test for service members.

“Veterans deserve every opportunity to earn the best possible education,” Coleman said in a news release. “Together with our partners, we are committed to helping many more veterans enter and complete college. These men and women have chosen to serve, and we must help clear a path for them to continue to own their futures.”

College Board administered more than 43,000 CLEP tests across 33 subject areas to service members, who make up the largest group the organization is able to track, said Bruce Shahbaz, senior director of strategic military initiatives.

The exams are covered by DANTES and free to active-duty service members. A recent study by College Board showed service members who took at least one test were 12 percent more likely to earn a college degree.

Shahbaz said schools that wish to get access to test takers’ information will be vetted; these institutions must have a proven track record of graduating students and meet other established criteria in order to participate. The schools can set particular thresholds for test scores across subject areas and get access to contact information for students with those scores about once a quarter.

“One of the primary reasons why we at Service to School are so enthusiastic about participating in this program is reaching service members when they’re very early in their military careers, before they have received bad advice, when they can develop really good habits early on,” said Andrea Goldstein, CEO of Service to School, one of the nonprofit organizations that will also be gaining access to service members’ information through this program. “Really spelling out how someone’s military service prepares them to return to the classroom is one other thing that we can share.”

Jared Lyon, CEO of Student Veterans of America said more than half of all service members go to college within seven months of leaving the military and outperform their nonveteran classmates.

“Imagine the impact if the highest performing colleges and universities more actively recruited them, enrolled them and included them when building inclusive classes,” he said in a statement.

Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.

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