By: Joshua M. Patton (IAVA Member)
It was in the spring of 2007 when I enrolled my first soldier deployed in Iraq. I worked for a for-profit university, enrolling students in degree programs mostly for criminal justice and “paralegal studies.” I had attended another online college while I was deployed with disastrous results, and this company told me they were going to be different. Of course, I enrolled the soldier, but unlike my experience, he had an ally on the other side of the phone. He was a reservist and I enrolled him in the criminal justice degree program and ensured that he was scheduled for classes that would easily transfer when he redeployed. I also helped the Financial Aid rep and explained how the military educational benefits work. However, the Rep was already aware of how they worked and was very excited that I had a military student on the line.
To be able to accept Federal financial aid, For-Profit schools cannot account for more than 90% of their funds from government sources. Ten percent of all of the students in degree programs must be paying cash. At the time, the military sent the money to the school for Tuition Assistance and to the student for the GI Bill, but both counted as “private funds,” and not “government funds.” When the Post 9/11 GI Bill was put into effect, loopholes were written in so that these funds also went directly to the school from the US Treasury but still counted as private funds.
In the past few years the business of online education has taken some hits in the public eye and the halls of power. Any college degree is an investment and most are not a guarantee to help you in any significant way. However, some of these for-profit universities care very little about the student after they make it through their first week in class. At my company, for instance, the amount of people on the phones to service the students as advisors was smaller-by-half than my sales team, and there were more than a dozen sales teams. The focus was on enrollment, not on graduation or providing the best academic experience they could afford. To be fair, the people who designed the classes did good work and tried to provide the students with a good experience. However, they were limited by budget, manpower, and substandard faculty.
This loophole has led to aggressive marketing and some out-and-out lies told in the interest of enrolling veterans. Many schools advertise that they are “GI Bill Friendly,” or offer veterans “special rates,” that are tailored to the maximum amounts of their benefits. Unlike many tertiary schools, these for-profit colleges offer very little in the way of veteran assistance, with a dedicated staff that is focused on anything other than ensuring that the necessary forms are in order. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have launched an aggressive campaign to spread the word about a number of bills that would ensure that these loopholes would be closed and the spirit of The 90/10 Rule would remain intact. No matter how one feels about for-profit schools, the fact remains that veterans’ education benefits are absolutely government funds and should be treated as such by these schools.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
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