<< The Body Politic

Creating military-friendly schools

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Are commercial colleges taking advantage of veterans? The New York Times has a hard-hitting story today about the surge of military students at profit-making colleges:

Now, a year after payouts on the so-called Post-9/11 G.I. Bill started, the huge program has turned into a bonanza of another kind for the many commercial colleges in the United States that have seen their military revenues surge.

More than 36 percent of the tuition payments made in the first year of the program — a total of $640 million in tuition and fees — went to for-profit colleges, like the University of Phoenix, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, even though these colleges serve only about 9 percent of the overall population at higher education institutions nationwide.

As the money flows to the for-profit university industry, questions are being raised in Congress and elsewhere about their recruitment practices, and whether they really deliver on their education promises. Some members say they want to place tighter limits on how much these colleges can collect in military benefits, a move certain federal officials say they would welcome.

The government should certainly create safeguards to protect veterans from being cheated, such as requiring schools to maintain certain graduation rates to be eligible for funds. However, there’s also a huge opportunity for non-profit colleges to make their campuses more military-friendly. As the Times notes, many service members choose for-profit colleges because they offer greater flexibility (a must for today’s frequent deployments), an emphasis on adult learners, and myriad incentives, including admission fee waivers and tuition discounts.

Non-profit schools are catching up, and some are even leading the pack. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot for schools to do to enable veterans to get the best education possible. Fortunately, programs like the American Council on Education and Students Veterans of America have lots of great ideas for how schools can improve.