10 November 2014

Education: It’s a Veteran’s Choice

AVP, Military Relations, American Military University

Those who serve in the military are expected to lead people, operate sophisticated equipment, and routinely make decisions under pressure. Why then, do some lawmakers consider these same highly trained service members to be naïve when selecting a college of their choice?

The education benefits offered to active-duty members and veterans are the best in the nation. In fact, these exceptional educational incentives are a major recruiting tool and one of the top reasons why individuals join the military. In 2013, approximately 272,000 active-duty, Guard and reserve personnel used Tuition Assistance benefits to enroll in over 800,000 college courses; over one million veterans used their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

With such a large volume of students using federal funding for school, it is quite understandable for members of Congress to be concerned with abuses and return on investment for the funds that are expended. Unfortunately, the quest to uncover unscrupulous practices and abuses has unfairly targeted an entire segment of higher education; namely for-profit colleges.

Although traditional state schools and non-profit colleges offer a wide range of educational alternatives to include flexible scheduling and online classroom options, for-profit colleges are attractive options for career-minded veterans who desire a wider variety of cutting-edge degree programs.  According to William G. Tierney, Co-Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, University of Southern California, the benefits of for-profit education goes beyond flexible scheduling and online classroom options. For-profit education is uniquely positioned to partner with employers because focusing on careers is built into the fabric of for-profit education. They can respond more fluidly to booming, emerging fields because of their willingness to embrace new forms of learning like competency-based learning. 

There are thousands of veterans successfully attending for-profit institutions. Many earned degrees at for-profit colleges while successfully applying for advanced degrees at state or non-profit private colleges and universities. Many of these veterans who complete their degrees with for-profit institutions are experiencing positive outcomes. In fact, four out of five of the top providers of education serving members of the Department of Defense are for-profit colleges (Bilodeau, 2014). 

We can all agree that veteran benefits are important for our nation to attract and retain the best and brightest to the military. We can also agree that our leaders are placed in a unique position, especially considering public outcry regarding some nefarious treatment of veterans. However, painting an entire industry with a broad stroke has far more reaching implications than just education. How and where veterans should use their hard-earned benefits should be left up to those who have served. Veterans have earned the right to be trusted to make the right decisions about their benefits.



Resource:
OUSD Voluntary Education Program Update: Dawn Bilodeau. February 2014.

About the Author 
John Aldrich is the associate vice president for military and community college outreach at American Military University (AMU). John’s past assignments for AMU include serving as director for military outreach, west region senior manager for military outreach, and education coordinator, California and Hawaii.

Prior to joining AMU, he served as an education services specialist for Marine Corps Base Twenty-Nine Palms California; director of career services and job placement at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Beaufort, South Carolina; education specialist for Navy College Programs, Sicily, Italy; academic advisor for undecided students and student athletes at the University of Rhode Island; and as a Naval Hospital Corpsman, Fleet Marine Forces.

John earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Sciences and Services and a Master of Science in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island. 


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*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

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