COLUMBIA, Mo. — Twelve years of military service left Donald Spradling highly trained in satellite imagery, nuclear engineering and foreign intelligence analysis. None of that made a difference to the University of Missouri.
When the fall semester begins next week, the 33-year-old father of five will be taking largely introductory courses with the rest of the school's freshmen.
"I'm going to be studying things I already learned all over again," the Navy veteran said.
Nearly half a million veterans are expected on college campuses this year as part of the new GI Bill. The surge is leading to a call for schools to re-examine their policies of declining to grant college credit for military training and service.
An estimated one in five colleges and universities do not give academic credit for military education, according to a recent survey of 723 schools by the American Council on Education. Even more of the schools, 36 percent, said they don't award credit for military occupational training.
That can mean spending more on tuition, stretching financial aid or GI Bill scholarships and delaying a student's entry into the work force.
Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said the school considers most military preparation "experiential learning." He noted that individual academic departments can choose to award credit on their own.
"It may be very practical skills acquisition, but that may not be what university education sets out to do," he said.
Many college-bound veterans said military recruiters often offer an unrealistic portrayal of what awaits in academia, suggesting their military coursework and training will count for college credit.
Derek Blumke, a six-year Air Force veteran, helped found Student Veterans of America, a group that plans to push for greater acceptance of military credit. At the University of Michigan, which he attends, some military coursework -- such as foreign language study -- is accepted for credit. Other work is not.
"There needs to be a standard format set up," said Blumke. "There are tens of thousands of vets coming home who aren't receiving the credit they deserve because the proper protocol isn't in place."