SOC DNS Student Agreements ~ A Win-Win for Military

As a military student, you face many challenges that can slow your progression toward completing certificate and degree program requirements.  The mobile military lifestyle, deployment cycles, balancing family commitments, and being unaware of support resources are all challenging aspects of continuing your education. But do not let these stop you from reaching your career and education goals! Do you have questions about programs of study, degree requirements, transfer credits, and career plans? Well, here’s the answer to your dilemma.

The Department of Defense (DoD) sponsors the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Degree Network System (DNS) to connect you and other service members to high quality education institutions that can help address some of these challenges and questions you may have — maybe all of them. Here are some of the answers you will receive by the end of this blog:

  • How SOC DNS educational opportunities can help you get your degree
  • What SOC DNS member institutions are
  • What the degree options and academic residency requirements are
  • How to navigate the SOC DNS transferability tables
  • Where to get an official evaluation of prior learning documentation
  • What does a SOC DNS Student Agreement do to provide you with a clear road map to your degree completion

SOC DNS Program Overview

SOC was established to help meet the higher education needs of service members. The DNS is made up of colleges and universities that have adopted specific DoD Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (DoD MOU) policies. These policies ensure you earn college degrees that meet certain quality standards. The program facilitates the transferability of college credits while maximizing the proper award of academic credit for your prior learning earned through your military training and experience and credit by examination (CLEP and/or DSST). The DNS consists of institutions selected to deliver specific associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs to service members. The SOC DNS includes:

  • DNS-2 for associate degrees
  • DNS-4 for bachelor’s degrees

The SOC DNS-2 and the SOC DNS-4 function as separate systems. Institutions may participate in either system exclusively or participate in both systems.

Military Student Benefits

The SOC DNS program is designed to help service members begin a degree program and continue through to completion. Yes, that’s right! Even with changes in duty station or if other demands of a military career get in the way, your degree program is protected in a variety of ways. Student benefits – your benefits include:

  • Official SOC Student Agreement that:
    -Serves as a contract-for-degree to protect from changes to degree requirements
    -Ensures quality standards of education
    -Remains in effect, even if you leave the military before graduating
  • Limited academic residency
  • Completion of courses via classroom, distance learning, and prior learning assessment
  • Guaranteed two-way transferability:
    -Courses eligible for transfer between academic institutions are listed on Transferability Tables under a particular SOC DNS Course Category
    -Includes a comprehensive degree plan that lists all course requirements and transfer credits granted through training/experience

Additional information for students is available at http://www.soc.aascu.org/students.

Home College

The SOC DNS member institution from which you are seeking a degree is designated your “home college.” The home college is responsible for issuing a Student Agreement when you have completed your first two courses at that school.

DNS Member Institutions

SOC DNS institutions are required to meet a number of institutional and degree membership criteria for participation in the system. These criteria are available under the DNS Membership section of the SOC website. All current and new DNS institutional members are evaluated against these criteria to ensure that the program yields quality educational experiences for you and other service members.

Degree Networks

A SOC DNS Academic Network consists of a number of degree programs in a single academic area offered by member institutions. For example, the SOC DNS-2 Computer Studies network offers degree programs in Programmer Analyst, Computer Networking, Information Technology, and Network Security. DNS degrees are generally offered via distance learning, traditional classroom settings, and prior learning assessment. Degrees in the network must achieve a 40 percent standard of two-way guaranteed transferability in major and major-related courses with other member institutions. Courses with two-way guaranteed transferability are listed in the SOC DNS transferability tables.

In June of 2016, SOC completed its membership review and network revitalization. The review focused on reshaping the DNS to support high demand occupations with bright employment outlooks in support of DoD’s Voluntary Education (VolEd) strategic plan. As a result, some of the previous networks were retired or reshaped. The following networks remain in the DNS:

  • Associate Degree Networks Bachelor’s Degree Networks
  • Applied Science & Technology Accounting
  • Automotive Maintenance Technical Management
  • Business Administration Business Administration
  • Computer Studies Computer Studies
  • Criminal Justice Criminal Justice
  • Electronics Technology Education/Instructional Development
  • General and Liberal Studies General Business
  • General Business Health Services Management
  • Management Homeland Security
  • Psychology Human Resource Management
  • Technical Management Information Systems
  • Psychology Management
  • Marketing/Retailing
  • Psychology

New networks in the process of development or expansion include:

  • Homeland Security (4-year program)
  • Health Services Management (4-year program)
  • Applied Science and Technology (2-year program)
  • Psychology (2-year program)
  • Health Science Foundations (2-year program)
  • Cyber Security (4-year program)

Use the SOC DNS Search tool to search available degree programs through member institutions.

Student Agreements

Every SOC DNS member institution must issue a Student Agreement for degree programs listed in the DNS. Each degree-seeking student who has chosen that institution as their home college should receive an agreement. The student agreement is issued early in the student’s enrollment at the college. This should happen when the college has received all of the student’s relevant transcripts or when the student has completed six semester hours with the home college. It is the official evaluation of the student’s prior learning. Prior learning can include courses taken from other institutions, military training courses, military occupational experience, and nationally-recognized examination programs. Your student agreement serves as a degree plan, so that you have a complete assessment of remaining degree requirements. It also serves as a contract-for-degree that protects you from changes to your degree program that may occur because of deployment or other military-related interruptions to your studies.

Guaranteed Transferability & Course Categories

The Guaranteed-Transfer Networks are designed to maximize guaranteed transferability for as many major and major-related course requirements listed in degree programs as possible. You are able to complete degree requirements as you change locations during your military career without loss or duplication of credit.

A SOC DNS Course Category Code is established whenever a group of institutions agree to accept courses in transfer with each other that are comparable in content. All comparable courses that have been reviewed and accepted in transfer by core member institutions in a particular course category are displayed in the transferability tables under that code. Core member institutions sharing the same SOC DNS course category must accept each other’s courses in those categories in transfer without prior approval.

Articulation Agreements

Articulation Agreements serve as a credit-granting map between two or more colleges or universities and their degree programs. The best example of how an articulation agreement works is when a student enrolls in an associate degree program to pursue a specific degree. The school offering the associate degree may have entered into an agreement with another school offering a bachelor’s degree in a similar field of study. By completing an associate degree that is part of an articulation agreement, the student is generally assured that all, or most, of the credits completed for the associate degree will be accepted into the bachelor’s degree program of the “receiving” school.

Without an articulation agreement, all credits from an associate degree from one college may not be completely be accepted by another college in transfer toward a bachelor’s degree. Courses are generally accepted in transfer only after a course-by-course evaluation by the accepting college. All member institutions in the SOC DNS-4, however, have agreed to accept an associate degree completed in a related SOC DNS-2 network as a minimum of 45 percent of the credits needed for a related bachelor’s degree, with certain stated limitations. The designated 2-year networks to which this guarantee applies, and the corresponding 4-year networks are:

  • Business Administration
  • Computer Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • General Business
  • Management – including Health Services Management/Human Resources Management (4-year)
  • Psychology

General Education Requirement

The minimum transfer of 45 percent of credits needed to complete the bachelor’s degree assumes that the associate degree included at least 30 semester hours of General Education credits. If you do not have these courses when transferring a DNS-2 degree, the receiving institution may add sufficient General Education credits to the remaining bachelor’s degree requirements.

Basic Course Requirement

The minimum transfer of 45 percent of the credits needed to complete the bachelor’s degree assumes that specified basic courses have been completed in the associate degree. Basic courses in DNS degrees in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, and Management, may include six semester hours in both Accounting Principles and Principles of Economics (or Microeconomics and Macroeconomics), as well as additional course requirements. If a student does not have these courses when transferring a DNS-2 degree into a related DNS-4 degree, the receiving institution may add appropriate courses to the remaining bachelor’s degree requirements. If the 4-year institution demonstrates that external regulatory or accreditation requirements mandate courses not contained in the associate degree being transferred, those courses may also be added.

Academic Residency

Academic residency refers to the minimum amount of credits taken at the home college in order to graduate. Courses may be taken in any delivery format to satisfy the residency requirement. All degree programs limit academic residency to 25 percent or less of the total degree program. None of the degree programs require a “final year” or “final semester” residency requirement. The only exception is when a degree may be completed entirely online. In those instances, the residency requirement may be increased to 30 percent. Participating institutions that offer degrees through the learning assessment method often require substantially less than 25 percent academic residency.

Completing Degrees After Military Service

One valuable benefit of attending a SOC DNS institution is that all member schools must continue to honor Student Agreements even after you leave the military. Student Agreements remain valid as long as you do not exceed the school’s degree completion time limit or break-in-attendance policy. Degree completion time and attendance policies vary by institution.

Family Member Participation

Adult family members who attend a SOC DNS member institution are entitled to many of the same policies and benefits as the service member. These include a Student Agreement, the use of two-way Guarantee-Transfer, reduced academic residency, etc. An adult family member is defined as a spouse or adult child of the military member. While member institutions are not required to complete Student Agreements for family members and do not submit them to the SOC DNS for processing, they may offer them to family members.

More Information

Other SOC DNS tools and resources are available.  DANTES website also has general information.

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Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander is a native of Alabama and a retired Air Force Master Sergeant with 24 years of dedicated service. She is responsible for the DANTES Information Bulletin (DIB) monthly newsletter and all other Communication Division visuals. ROLL TIDE!