Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Extinguishing the For-Profit College Hype

June Olsen

The Post 9/11 GI Bill offers many benefits to veterans who have served in the armed forces since the September 11th attacks. The legislation, recently updated in 2011, offers federal grant money to veterans pursuing higher education equal to the full cost of any public university in their state. The bill also offers grants of up to $17,500 per academic year for veterans attending private or foreign schools.  While these benefits can be a great and welcome boon for veterans, it is also money spent by the government that goes directly to each respective financial institution. As an increasing number of veterans elect for accredited online college programs, many schools benefiting from the government largesse are for-profit online schools. That these private companies, many of which have been heavily criticized for questionable marketing and admissions tactics, are receiving large amount of taxpayer money has many government officials and citizens questioning the validity of the schools and the possible exploitation of government benefits.

For many students, acceptance into these for-profit schools is leading to more anxiety than learning. A recent MotherJones article stated that among the eight for-profit schools that take the most GI Bill money, more than half the students drop out before the end of their first year. Furthermore, some schools are seeing student loan default rates upwards of 60%.

According to an NPR story, The Department of Veterans Affairs has already paid out nearly $18 billion in post-September 11th education benefits. With such a massive market, for-profit schools have been specifically targeting veterans with sales pitches from institutions with large marketing budgets. The largest online for-profit schools, University of Phoenix, runs an entire “military division” that employs 600 veterans and runs an online military newsletter called the “Patriot”. With sophisticated marketing strategies like these, many are questioning the ethics of these marketing strategies; the question has been raised as to whether these marketing tactics are even legal.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is currently leading a multi-state investigation of for-profit colleges, as many assert that the companies try to deceive potential students into believing their ads are government websites. One commercial site, “”, is actually run by a company called QuinStreet, a “lead generator” that collects information and sells it to for-profit colleges and universities. Attorney General Conway is trying to ensure the activity is legal.

In 2009, for-profit colleges took in almost as much GI Bill money as public colleges, despite enrolling about one-third as many veterans, according to MotherJones. Unlike their public school competition, though, they are not bound by the same federal regulations. Many in Congress have considered enacting tighter limitations on the public funding that can go to for-profit schools. The hope is that waste would be reduced, fraud would be eliminated and regulations would be enacted to penalize schools that are not helping their students. For now, though, veterans should be diligent about researching their potential colleges, consulting the VA or the college board for help in determining which schools will increase their marketability, and avoiding the predators.

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1 comment:

  1. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real effort to make a good article... but what can I say... I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.
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