For-Profit Colleges Suck Up Half Of All Vet Tuition Dollars, Deliver Few Grads

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To this day, I am deeply ashamed of the six months I spent as a salesperson -- excuse me, admissions counselor -- at a for-profit college. (I am, however, proud that I was fired for refusing to sign up anyone with a pulse.) It wasn't until after I left that I finally learned most of their business practices were not only illegal, they'd already been cited for them and were operating under a compliance order at the time they were charged again. (As far as I can tell, those charges went nowhere. I'm sure it's a coincidence that the CEO was a big-time Bush fundraiser.)

Now we're finding out that these for-profit colleges are taking tuition money from many veterans who are not good risks for completing these programs:

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) just released new Defense Department data showing that the troubled for-profit college sector — which has left many American deep in debt — received half of all military Tuition Assistance dollars last year — $280 million out of $563 million for college grants for active duty military.

During their decade of explosive growth, for-profit education companies have sent armies of high-pressure recruiters to military bases and set up makeshift campuses right nearby. More recently, they have sent armies of lobbyists to convince the Obama Administration and Congress that they should not be held accountable.Among Senator Harkin’s conclusions based on the Pentagon data:

  • Six of the largest recipients of Tuition Assistance are for-profits, and they get 41 percent of all TA dollars. A review of four of those schools by Sen. Harkin’s staff revealed that 60 percent of their students drop out within a year.
  • One of the schools, Bridgepoint, employs 1,700 recruiters but just one job placement counselor.
  • For-profit colleges are getting more than 60 percent of the tuition assistance available to military spouses.

Last fall, Senator Harkin’s staff found that eight of the top ten recipients of Post 9/11-G.I. Bill education benefits are for-profit higher education companies.

“In light of the aggressive and misleading recruiting employed by some for-profit colleges,” Harkin said, “DoD should institute protections and quality assurances from schools in order to receive Tuition Assistance funds.”

A press release from Harkin’s office also quotes leaders from a number of veterans and service member advocacy groups calling for reforms, including Michael Dakduk, Executive Director of Student Veterans of America: “It is essential that taxpayer dollars used by DoD and VA to fund education programs for our service members and veterans go to schools that are focused on degree attainment and meaningful employment – not just recruiting numbers. This new data showing so much money going to schools with exceptionally low performance is truly alarming.”


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