Veterans exploited by for-profit colleges

Corporations profit off of new GI Bill

January 4, 2011

A statement by March Forward!

Promised an education if we only go fight wars for corporate profits, young veterans are now being misled and taken advantage of by corporate colleges. For-profit colleges, which are simply money-making schemes with false promises of higher education, have made hundreds of millions of dollars while offering veterans almost nothing of value.

In 2008, Congress passed a “new GI Bill,” which subsidizes the cost of higher education for veterans. Passed so the politicians can claim they "support the troops" while sending us on repeated deployments to two senseless wars, the law has become just another way to funnel enormous sums of money to massive corporations.

Of the funding given out as a result of the bill, 36 percent has gone to for-profit institutions. This is hugely disproportional; only 9 percent of all students attend private colleges. For-profit colleges has directly targeted young veterans to take advantage of our education benefits.

Corporations like the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix and several other schools, have launched elaborate marketing campaigns in an attempt to cash in. They’ve come under increasing scrutiny for pushing students in to debt while offering very little in terms of education and job skills.

Michael DiGiacomo, a U.S. Army veteran, has attended two for-profit colleges, only to experience the scam so many others have.

“I’m cornered, and I don’t know what to do,” he said in an interview. “I would love to forget I ever went to those two schools and start from scratch.”

Many veterans are attracted to offers of flexible online study and accelerated plans that grant degrees in a reduced timeframe. However, they are often pressured into enrolling in programs that have little educational value. Jason Deatherage, a former military admissions officer at Colorado Technical University, admitted that under the pressure of unreasonable recruitment quotas, “Instead of helping people, too often I felt like we were almost tricking them.” (New York Times, Dec. 8)

Because of this deception, a shockingly large portion of student veterans drop out without completing their degrees. In 2008, only 39 percent of students enrolled in Colorado Technical’s online courses (largely veterans) returned the next year, as opposed to the national average of 77 percent. Contributing to this dropout rate is the complete lack of assistance service members receive once they begin classes. The government cannot get a refund as long as student veterans participate in their first week of classes, so there is no incentive for these institutions to help veterans adjust academically.

Everyone has the right to an education, but it is regularly denied to poor and working people. It is for exactly this reason that many of us joined the military, but now we are being cheated out of the education we were promised.

Manipulative private colleges add one more burden to veterans already dealing with the threat of unemployment and homelessness, which disproportionately affects veterans. The large number of us coming out of these for-profit colleges will still be left with no valuable job skills in an already abysmal job market.

The Pentagon, Congress and all other government institutions have proven time and time again that they are solely concerned with profit and have no regard for the well-being of veterans. The money spent on sending us to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan could easily create massive job programs with a living wage—but this government is concerned with corporate profits, not the well-being of veterans and other working people.

This will only change if we stand together, refuse to participate in the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and demand to be treated with dignity and respect.

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