The Department of Veterans Affairs recently disqualified three Westwood College campuses in Texas from receiving GI Bill funds in an effort to protect prospective veteran students from the school’s deceptive admissions practices. The move to withdraw the school's GI Bill eligibility was made after the Government Accountability Office reported that Westwood and 14 other schools made questionable statements about graduation rates, failed to provide clear information about the program's cost, and exaggerated applicants' potential earnings.
The removal of these three schools is part of a larger effort to crack down on higher education institutions that use deceptive admissions processes and heavy-handed techniques to persuade students to enroll in their education programs.
During a recent Senate subcommittee hearing Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) stated that a number of for-profit schools are being investigated for abusing veterans. However, he also pointed out that many for-profits offer high-quality non-traditional education alternatives that fit servicemember and veteran needs. Carper also made it clear that the focus was not just on for-profit schools, many community colleges and not-for-profit schools are also facing congressional scrutiny due to low graduation rates and high numbers of student loan defaults.
As a veteran who has earned credit at both for-profit and not-for-profit schools, I can attest to experiencing both the good and bad from both. Having earned my bachelor's while on active duty and a master's as a veteran, my decision on which schools to attend, like most adult learners, came down to a matter of which programs offered the most flexibility and met my budget (i.e. tuition assistance and GI Bill limits). But it is also important for students to remember that issues like accreditation, reputation and fair treatment are equally important.
The recent attention on for-profit schools is a reminder that just because a school claims to be military-friendly doesn’t make it so. It’s important for veterans and servicemembers to become smarter education “consumers.” Over the years Military.com has provided our members with resources and articles help them select the right school and use their benefits wisely.
One way to make sure a school is right for you is to ask the college admissions representative if they are aware of and are willing to adhere to the Servicemembers Opportunity College’s Military Student's Bill of Rights. If not, you should consider finding a different school.
The following articles offer advice to help vets avoid getting ripped off:
- Choosing an Education Institution
- How to Judge an Online Program
- Avoiding Diploma Mills
- Accreditation: Make Sure It’s the Real Deal
- Admissions: Ask the Right Questions
- Keys to Selecting Your Degree
The bottom line: Learn to be a smart shopper. You wouldn’t spend your money on a car without doing your homework -- treat your education benefits the same way.
[Editors Note: Part of Military.com’s mission is to partner with colleges and universities – including for-profit schools – to assist our members with reaching their educational goals. In many cases, for-profit schools are the best option for servicemembers and veterans matriculating toward the next level while balancing other commitments. We will continue to do work with institutions to the extent that they meet their claims and provide a fair value to those who have earned the benefits of service. We will also work to expose schools that attempt to knowingly take advantage of our members.]