If you've spent any time around a military base, you've probably noticed the surprisingly large number of for-profit colleges that are eager to enroll new military students. While a for-profit college might be the right choice for your academic goals, it is important to understand how they operate and why military students are so attractive to them. With the Department of Defense's announcement that it has suspended the University of Phoenix from the tuition assistance program, it is a good time to review the basics of for-profit colleges and the military.
Why For-Profit Colleges Like The MilitaryThere are two main reasons that any college wants to attract military students: access to educational funding, and a rule commonly called the 90-10 rule.
Military students have a variety of different sources of educational funding available to them, including tuition assistance, the GI Bill, student loans, and self-funding. As a result, thousands of active duty military members pursue higher education each year, and because the classes are already being held at military-friendly locations, these programs are attractive to military family members, too.
The two government-funded programs, tuition assistance and the GI Bill, are important to colleges because it helps them stay within the guidelines of the "90-10" rule, under which a school can not collect more than 90% of its funding from federal student aid such as student loans. However, military educational benefits aren't considered federal funds for this calculation, so military students help keep the ratio within the rules.
How To Evaluate a CollegeIt is important to look critically at any college you might attend, to avoid wasting your time and money. Unfortunately, for-profit colleges often have lower success rates and higher resulting student debt without corresponding employment. Here are two ways see if a college is going to fit your needs:
StatisticsThere are a wide variety of resources for statistics on colleges. One popular source is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)'s College Navigator website. You can look up important statistics on the colleges you're considering, then compare them to national averages available in the Fast Facts section. Things you want to consider include:
- graduation rates,
- default rates, and
- rates of "gainful employment."
AccreditationIt is essential that the school be accredited, but the type of accreditation is important, too. While it seems backwards, regional accreditation by one of the six regional accrediting agencies is the desired accreditation and is more valuable than national accreditation. This is particularly important if you intend to transfer or pursue graduate education.
Even if the school is accredited, you need to find out if your individual program meets the requirements for any professional designations.
This article is absolutely not designed to be an all-encompassing guide to evaluating colleges, but rather to get you thinking about the work you need to do to make an informed decision. While you may find that a for-profit college is the right choice for your exact situation, don't jump in without doing a substantial amount of homework to be positive that it is a good use of your educational fund and your precious time.