Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Rebuilding the Purpose of the GI Bill (Garrett Fitzgerald*)

[This article is part of the Transparency-Accountability-Value series.]

The landscape of military-connected students in higher education has been filled with turmoil for the last two decades. The G.I. Bill, a well-earned and financially substantial benefit for student veterans since 1944, has been a lightning rod for this turmoil. With the more recent release of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, the benefits have become even more lucrative for the student and therefore, the universities receiving those dollars. 

From 2009 to 2020, approximately $60 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition has been paid out to colleges and universities. In light of this cash windfall predatory companies and institutions took advantage. It has caused irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of military-connected students. 

One of the original concepts behind the Montgomery G.I. Bill was to supercharge the country’s economic rebuild after World War II. With college paid for, the country could spread the introduction of millions of veterans into the workforce over a period of time rather than all at once. It also provided, in an unprecedented fashion, a pipeline of trained, skilled and educated candidates for the workforce. It worked. The country saw strong economic growth during this period and one of the primary reasons for this was that student veterans - and their financial benefits - were being put to good use at quality institutions of higher learning.

Fast forward to today, we see veteran graduation rates declining and employment statistics headed in the wrong direction. Coincidentally, a trend we’re also seeing, in parallel, is the immense amount of money paid each year to subprime predatory colleges and universities. These institutions have lost sight of their purpose (education) and are investing millions of dollars into military recruitment for a cut of the financial benefits. 

To better showcase this imbalance, in 2017 seven of the top 10 colleges receiving the most G.I. Bill benefits, spent less than one-third of tuition and fees on “academic instruction” (Veterans Education Success). These colleges, coincidentally, are producing far below average graduation and employment statistics - wonder why? They are more focused on military recruitment than what to do with these students once they enroll.

One might ask themself, “how do these bad colleges manage to enroll so many military-connected students?” The answer is that they advertise their programs with substantially more investment than others. Colleges with limited budgets or those looking to enter the military market for the first time, are unable to compete on most lead gen sites and some are even outpriced on sites like Google and Facebook. 

The question is what do we do about this crippling issue? Predatory colleges won’t change their ways with the lack of government-backed punishment handed down over the years so the solution has to come from elsewhere. CollegeRecon sees the solution in the way military-connected students research and discover university options. 

There has been a need for change in the way military-connected students learn about their education benefits, research degree program pathways and select institutions to enroll in for decades. The VA doesn’t do nearly enough, transition programs are often not effective and selecting colleges based on location or misleading marketing messages is what got us here in the first place.

Over the last 6+ years, CollegeRecon has been building a new standard for the way military-connected students discover and engage with colleges and universities, and vice-versa.

The platform is free for the military and veteran community. It provides impartial and easily digestible information on all the benefits programs available to each individual based on their own military experience and status. It also dives into degree program opportunities, earning credit for service, recommended questions to ask admissions reps, discounts available to military-connected students, etc. 

What sets CollegeRecon apart from other online resources is the set of free tools we’ve created to assist men and women with refining school searches, connecting with campus administrators and gaining access to military-affiliated scholarships to offset any out-of-pocket expenses. CollegeRecon has nearly 3,000 active college profiles with information on degrees offered, tuition costs, military support programs, campus facts, etc. If a match is made and the individual is interested in learning more about the institution, he or she can “request info” from a designated point of contact on campus who can help answer questions. An important key to our platform’s success is that members can connect with any college in our network, not just partners. 

CollegeRecon is NOT a traditional lead generator where users register an account and have their information sold to 10 semi-matched schools. CollegeRecon members are in complete control of who they request information from and they can even choose to communicate with a school outside of the CollegeRecon environment; we provide links and contact information for all school websites listed in the tool.  

For universities, CollegeRecon offers a safe and effective environment to promote their brand and create opportunities for engagement with a targeted audience of college-seeking, military-connected students. With this platform, colleges can get their brand in front of the largest online community of military-connected men and women actively seeking opportunities in higher education.  

CollegeRecon aligns with schools to be a transparent, targeted and trusted partner and to provide an even playing field for different types of colleges. CollegeRecon currently works with colleges and universities across the country; including four-year private and public, 2-year colleges, as well as online and campus learning institutions.  

Our goal has never been to create high volume, low quality leads. The purpose of the platform is to create awareness for colleges in a brand-safe way while offering a non-predatory environment for prospective students looking to utilize the G.I. Bill or Tuition Assistance.  

As we continue to build out the platform’s capabilities and reach within the military and higher ed community, our focus remains set on rebuilding the purpose of the G.I. Bil. That purpose, in our view, is to ensure those who served in uniform are rewarded with a genuine education that leads to career fulfillment and economic prosperity.

Related Link:  Report: Veterans Who Use GI Bill Have Lower Incomes After College Enrollments (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related link:  8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)

*Garrett Fitzgerald is the CEO and Founder of Homefront Alliance, the parent company of College Recon.  "GI Bill" is a registered trademark.  


Veterans Benefits said...

Gi Bill is very helpful in paying Bill tuition and other expenses it encourage the military's veteran

Anonymous said...

The GI bill made us targets, set us up for profiling and arrangement of classes to exploit all of its limits then an introduction to predatory loans , our lives were ruined but we now have help and we struggle to get back to zero , no profit no payment of damages to our lives just break even.