Many soldiers, perhaps enticed to join the military because of the Defense Department’s commitment to pay for up to $4,500 a year of college, end up enrolling in online colleges. This is understandable; when someone’s actually serving in the military it’s very difficult to attend classes toward a degree, no matter how much money one has, simply for logistical reasons. So online fills a void. The University of Phoenix, for instance, offers active-duty military personnel the ability to earn a (typically two-year) associate’s degree in five weeks. The trouble is, according to an article in Bloomberg News:

Several online for-profit schools have become a concern on military bases because of practices that exploit soldiers and the federal subsidies they are promised, said [Director of Lifelong Learning Robert] Songer, at Camp Lejeune.

“Some of these schools prey on Marines,” Songer said. “Day and night, they call you, they e-mail you. These servicemen get caught in that. Nobody in their families ever went to college. They don’t know about college.”

Of course, recruiting students for college aggressively isn’t necessarily a problem. Except when getting that college degree doesn’t really work. Companies are very reluctant to hire people with degrees, any degrees, from online schools. As Bradford Rand, chief executive of Techexpo Top Secret, explained in the article: “You have two people of the same caliber, one has a degree from a real college, one has a degree from a computer, I’m going to favor the one from the live college.”

Some 40 percent of the federal tuition money for active-duty military personnel pays for for-profit, online colleges.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer