By SALLY SEXTON
Weatherford native Ryan Rafols spent four years fighting for his country as part of the U.S. Army.
Now as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, Rafols has taken it upon himself to fight for his fellow veterans as well as the community of Austin through two ways.
While in the Army, Rafols worked as a missile defense engineer, learning to operate military defense systems, calculating targets and maintaining computer systems.
But when he returned stateside, Rafols found out that the skills he had learned in the Army wouldn’t transfer as college credits.
“I wasn’t a big fan of the bills proposed this (Legislative) session to limit the Hazlewood Act, and any kind of limit to a veteran’s education is kind of ridiculous,” Rafols said.
After the issue gained attention, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, from San Antonio, filed and passed legislation that created the College Credit for Heroes pilot program in 2011. The program helps veterans get college credit for their military service.
Rafols and others spent considerable time lobbying for the program, which was sponsored by Gov. Rick Perry and other political figures and was expected to be voted on during this year’s legislative session but never reached the full House for consideration.
“It’s on a hiatus right now, but it’s not going to get cut,” Rafols said of the pilot program. “But if we can make this a permanent program, then it will garner more respect from other colleges and universities.”
Rafols said there are currently only seven colleges that accept credit from the program. Six more partner colleges have also been awarded grants for the program.
“How the process works (for a veteran) is you get interviewed, they talk with you about credits, get more information on your skills and educational background and help you get the credits you should be awarded with based on your background,” Rafols said. “But most colleges don’t accept that readily because it’s really hard to verify beyond the military transcript.”