FORBES: Veterans Are Most Vulnerable To For-Profit College Manipulation

Career College Central Summary:

  • For-profit colleges have taken a beating in the court of public opinion, as former students allege that they were bum rushed into classes that saddled them with enormous debt and into majors of dubious utility that left them unprepared for the merciless 21st century global workforce. Poor and minority students were foremost in mind in the Obama administration’s gainful employment initiative, which strengthens income and job benchmarks that the Department of Education expects for-profit colleges to meet in return for mission-critical access to federal student loans and grants.
  • Often overlooked, however, in this sudden zeal to reign in for-profits are military veterans and their families. Part of the problem might be the military itself. For example, there is strong public support in defense circles — as evidenced by an op-ed by retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Larry Harrington in the October 30th edition of the Hill – behind for-profits, especially those (such as West-Virginia-based APUS, previously featured in this space) that tailor courses to active-duty personnel and veterans seeking advanced training or college credit for time served. In addition, the fierce loyalty to the chain-of-command, combined with the military’s tough-it-out culture might discourage vets from publicly questioning not only the educational endorsements of high-ranking officers, but also the value of a for-profit degree itself.
  • However, a growing body of evidence suggests that the cause might be more disturbing.
  • With their unemployment rate at 9%, military veterans are highly susceptible to for-profit college pitches about job guarantees. Compounding this predilection is the high amount of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) among returning vets, who often lack the psychological wherewithal to navigate unstructured civilian life, let alone the deceptive mine field set by for-profit college marketers claiming to be operating in their interest.
  • Even though for-profit colleges cost the taxpayer double what a four-year public school charges, veteran enrollment at for-profit colleges jumped from 23% of all veterans in 2009 to 31% of all veterans in 2013. It is no coincidence that this increase started shortly after the number of non-military students at for-profits started to dramatically decrease.
  • More insidious are the connections of top military brass to for-profit colleges. For example, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sat on the board  of Corinthian Colleges, which was recently forced into government-lead teach-out and closure. Moreover, General Wesley Clark felt no remorse in delivering a paid keynote address at the June, 2013 conference of the for-profit trade industry group, APSCU (The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities). APSCU’s 2011 event featured a keynote by Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and advisory board member for Leeds Equity Partners, a sizable investor in Education Management Corporation (EDMC), the second largest for-profit education provider and target of deceptive practices probes by 12 different state attorney generals.

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