Showing posts with label veterans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label veterans. Show all posts

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.  

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Are “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly Colleges” Rankings Believable?

[Editor's Note: This article is for US servicemembers, veterans, and their families.]

GI Bill benefits are a well-deserved reward for your years of military service. They are also an important, but not endless asset for you and your family to transition back to civilian life and to have a good future. In a 2018 Military Times opinion piece, I suggested 8 tips for choosing a college. Those tips are an important primer, but even more education is necessary to spend your GI Bill funds wisely. Military Times, GI Jobs, and others have compiled “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly School” lists for servicemembers and veterans, but are their lists credible?

Military Friendly?

Whether you are on post, off post, or surfing online, hucksters are trying to sell you their schools, calling them “military friendly.” Servicemembers, veterans, and their families are inundated with advertisements and recruiting for schools--and often these schools are what I call “subprime,” meaning they have questionable value and use questionable tactics to recruit. These messages appear on billboards, ads at the top of your Google or Bing search, on your feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media, in ads embedded in internet articles, and in local newspapers, and magazines in unemployment offices and in grocery stores. And once they get your personal information, subprime schools may end up sending you a slew of texts and phone calls pitching their messages.

Military Times, GI Jobs, and other media produce college rankings specifically for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. This lists have some valuable information, but they should not be used exclusively for making the best college choice. You should be particularly skeptical of advertisements in these and other sources, which may or may not be helpful in making college choices. In some cases, websites posing as informational tools for veterans are actually internet predators.

Military Times’ “Best for Vet” Lists

Military Times (publisher of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Times) produces a “Best for Vets” list that includes separate lists for 4-year colleges, two year colleges, online and non-traditional colleges and vocational colleges. The schools are ranked by factors such as: whether they have a veterans center, military retention rate, military graduation rate, and affordability for people using DOD Tuition Assistance and GI Bill funds.

The Best for Vets four-year college list has schools with value, with University of Texas, Arlington, Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Syracuse University topping the list. But while these schools may be good for many veterans, high-performing veterans may be better served at highly selective schools like Columbia University, Cornell University, and Stanford. If you have done well on the SAT or ACT and shown promise in your educational work, Warrior-Scholar and Service2School may be important allies.

Military Times’ lists of 2-year schools and vocational schools includes community colleges that have reasonable value, but they may not be the best choice if a student doesn’t plan to stay in the area. The list of online schools does include, Excelsior College, New York state’s college for working adults completing their degrees. Other schools on the online list, however, are particularly troubling (Colorado Technical University and American Intercontinental University, for example). Rather than being best for veterans, some are considered bad actors by organizations looking out for veterans and other consumers. To muddy the waters even more, Military Times accepts advertisements from subprime schools that have the money to post half-page ads in the magazine.

Subprime Colleges

By subprime college, I am referring to schools that have:
  • high tuition in relation to community colleges,
  • low graduation rates, and
  • low student loan repayment rates*

You can find this information at the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

Subprime schools also spend a great deal of their revenues for advertising, marketing, and recruiting and little on instruction. Subprime schools often sell themselves as accredited, but accreditation, even regional accreditation, sets a low bar for educational quality. These schools have also been called “bad actors” and the “bottom of the barrel.”  The Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Comparison Tool provides some information on complaints made to VA. If a school has more than 30 GI Bill complaints, consider another school.

Subprime colleges are often for-profit, but they may also be non-profits or state universities that operate as bad actors. University of Phoenix, DeVry, Colorado Technical Institute, and Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University) are glaring examples of subprime schools that have used shady tactics to recruit servicemembers, veterans, and other consumers. 

GI Jobs “Military Friendly Schools”

GI Jobs’ Tier-1 university list includes selective, well-respected schools like Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Columbia University, and University of Connecticut. If you look at the schools by state, you’ll find a much smaller list, which will have schools of varying in quality and value. Unfortunately, the Military Friendly lists you may generate with the filters do not compare the schools as transparently as the Military Times lists. 

Schools that use an outdated Military Friendly logo should be particularly suspect. In this case, the schools may have lost their ranking or designation and are using their most recent award. If the designation was not issued after 2017, the school may be considered subprime. 

Predatory Lead Generators

Do an online search for “military friendly schools” or “GI Bill” and you may find results that are even less helpful than Military Times or GI Jobs: results that may make take you down a wrong turn in your career and college decisions. Scam websites use internet lead generators to take your personal information, to sell you a degree or certificate that won’t be a good investment. In some cases, these lead generators pose as military friendly sites with flags and people in uniform. Lead generators have been fined and shut down for misleading veterans but that has not deterred others from continuing their predatory behavior. 

Sunken Investments

If you have found that the school you went to while in the military is a “bottom of the barrel” college, you have lots of research to do before using your GI Bill benefits. Think twice about investing your GI Bill money into a school that will not lead to gainful employment, even if that means starting over if you have to. You should also contact VA and Veterans Education Success to register any complaints about a school you have attended.

*Unfortunately for consumers, student loan repayment rate has been removed from the new College Scorecard.

Helpful Links

Warrior-Scholar (college preparatory boot camps)

Service2School (free application counseling)

Veteran Mentor Network on LinkedIn

Veterans Education Success (tips in enrolling for college)
8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)