Examples of for-profit and online colleges exploiting GI Bill benefits
The vets have served their country, and want to use the educational benefit to get a solid education and a good job following their service. However, the online degrees provide questionable educational value and Frontline found that hiring managers look down on them. In other words, it's a scam -- and taxpayers are paying for it. A few low points in the report:
- An Army vet who attended Gibbs College (owned by Career Education Corporation) to study computer animation was promised that the college had connections had connections with the biggest Hollywood studios, including Pixar. The student claims Gibbs never provided proper computer animation training. He blew his GI Bill benefit (which you can apparently only spend on one institution) and took out tens of thousands of dollars in private student loans before realizing his education was useless. His conclusion: "Honestly, I'll regret going to college for the rest of my life."
- Another combat veteran, Sergeant Pantzke (pictured) wanted to study photography and was sucked in by the Art Institute's pitch. He was accepted as soon as he filled out the school's online form to inquire about the online bachelor's program. Despite having PTSD, he was promised full support to help him with his studies, which he never received (according to Daniel Golden, an investigative journalist who interviewed him for Bloomberg, "He had preserved a string of e-mails between himself and officials at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and included in those e-mails were several in which he had asked for help. He had asked for face-to-face tutoring; he had asked for simplified homework assignments. And they had told him that they wouldn't make those accommodations for him"). The school took $70,000 of his GI Bill money, then flunked him.
- At these rates, soldiers are paying more for their education than a single year's tuition at Harvard Business School. Why are the for-profit, mostly online colleges schools so expensive? According to BusinessWeek, "American Military University, [University of] Phoenix, and closely held Grantham charge $250 a credit, or $750 a course, which allows them to receive the maximum reimbursed by U.S. taxpayers without service members having to pay any out-of-pocket tuition." By comparison, "Publicly funded community colleges offer classes on military bases for as little as $50 a credit."
- Golden also recounted the tale of an
unnamedfor-profit college (turns out it's Ashford University) that sent a female recruiter to the Wounded Warriors barracks in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to sign up brain-injured Marines.
- Ashford University (remember them?) has 9,000 current or ex-military students, and uses vets for recruiting. Two former recruiters spoke on-screen to Frontline and said they can help establish a rapport with prospective students and convince them to enroll.
- Westwood College recruiters lie about job prospects to potential students: On one recording of a phone conversation provided to Frontline, the recruiter told a prospect "Right out of the box you have the ability to make between $72 and $82 thousand dollars."
- How much do University of Phoenix and other graduates of for-profit colleges really make? The answer, according to survey data from PayScale cited by Frontline, is military graduates earn 12-15% less at for-profit colleges compared to military graduates of public state schools. The salary levels shown on screen look to be in the $30,000 to $45,000 range.
- Do LinkedIn recruiters treat graduates of online colleges the same as graduates of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges? Reports by the Wall Street Journal indicate that online and part-time degrees are often ignored by professional job recruiters.
- Ted Daywalt of VetJobs was even more blunt about the prospects for graduates of for-profit schools, and said online degrees have a poor reputation in industry. The Navy vet said he talked with 30 HR managers and asked if they were presented with two job candidate with similar work backgrounds, but one graduated from an online school, and one from a well-known "brick and mortar school," which would they choose? All of the HR managers would choose the brick and mortar school, he said.
- The for-profits have done a skillful job of gaming online search results and Web pages that curious vets might look at. For instance, GIBill.com only directs students to for-profit colleges. I looked them up on the site -- the choices are American Military University (owned by American Public Education, Inc.), Strayer University (owned by Strayer Education, Inc.), Ultimate Medical Academy Online, Grantham University, Virginia College (owned by Education Corporation of America), Walden University (owned by Laureate Education), Kaplan University (operated by Iowa College Acquisition Corporation, which is owned by Kaplan Inc., which is in turn owned by the Washington Post), DeVry University (owned by DeVry Inc.), University of Phoenix (owned by Apollo Group), Ashford University (owned by Bridgeport Education), Capella University (owned by Capella Education Co.), Westwood College (owned by Alta Colleges), Art Institutes (owned by Education Management Corporation), and Full Sail University.
- According to the Veterans Administration, graduation rates at private for-profits stand at 28%, half the rate for public colleges.
- Even if students realize their mistake and try to leave the online and for-profit programs for a public brick-and-mortar school, they won't be able to start their GI benefits at a new school. Even worse, the credits don't always transfer, either because there is no comparable coursework at the state school or community college, or the for-profit school is nationally accredited (see my post on regional accreditation vs national accreditation).
For-profit and online college scams on FrontlineThere's more in the Frontline documentary, which you can watch below. It's only about 20 minutes long. I also urge you to watch Frontline's "College Inc." and read some of the other blog posts I've written about the University of Phoenix, online math classes, and distance education, which are listed below the video (scroll down to the bottom of the page).
University of Phoenix astroturfing my blogUpdate: Someone attempted to leave a comment on the site stating the Frontline report is "misleading" and claiming that certain for-profit colleges "like University of Phoenix" are different, specifically when it comes to transferring credits. However, there are some notable examples of schools that do not accept UoP transfer credits ("CIT does not accept courses from the University of Phoenix", "the University of Phoenix is not an accredited institution"). The author was anonymous, but when I checked out my web logs, what did I see? It turned out that the comment was left by someone from UoP's corporate parent, Apollo Group (see screenshot below, which shows the origin of the comment).
bizarre attempt at astroturfing or ridiculing UoP students (apparently by another UoP employee) shows.
For further reading about online education and for-profit colleges, I would suggest the following posts:
- SNL's "University of Westfield" ad: The reputation of online degrees takes another hit
- What's the value of a University of Phoenix degree?
- My online math class: Convenience gets an 'A,' but at what cost?