Beginning autumn semester, graduates of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy may earn 18 credits toward a new associate of arts police science degree program at Missoula College of The University of Montana (formerly the College of Technology).
Missoula College UM, Montana University System and academy officials have worked on this effort for two years.
MC, the UM College of Arts and Sciences, and UM’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences created a new degree path, Fundamentals of Police Science, in which academy credits represent the first semester of a new four-semester associate of arts degree.
The Montana Board of Regents gave the final approval to the degree path and the MLEA credit transfer piece in May.
“The collaboration between the academy and The University of Montana is exciting and has opened doors for students who might otherwise not seek higher education,” said Lynn Stocking, MC associate dean.
The program is designed so MC graduates can enroll in a UM bachelor degree program and their credits will transfer seamlessly to the central campus.
Kevin Olson, administrator of MLEA, said the program may prove especially appealing to military veterans, who now make up about 50 percent of academy graduates and can use their G.I. Bill benefits to pay for their college education.
“Higher education is increasingly important for law enforcement,” Olson said. “Not just for the individual officer, but for the profession as a whole. We encourage our graduates to continue with their learning.”
The program would work this way: MLEA graduates wanting to participate in the program would have to co-enroll in the college or enroll after graduation from MLEA. After graduating from the academy, students would need an additional three semesters to earn the 60 credits necessary to complete their associate of arts degree. Those 60 credits would transfer to the central UM campus for students interested in earning a bachelor’s degree.
The academy, part of the Montana Department of Justice, is Montana’s premier educational and training institution for law enforcement officers in many areas, including city, county and tribal officers. Located just north of Helena, the academy is open only to employed law enforcement officers. Typically, Olson said, an agency hires someone as an officer under the condition that he or she graduate from the academy.