With Friends Like These…

With the vast amount of military money available for soldiers and veterans, thanks to the newly expanded Post 9/11 GI Bill, many colleges are eager to cash in. Some 600,000 veterans are now about to spend around $9 billion in federal money this year for education.

But what schools should veterans attend? The interested veteran might look around online to figure out which schools are best for veterans. But that might not result in the information he’s really looking for. According to an Associated Press piece by Justin Pope in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

Some schools touting their spots on proliferating lists of “military friendly” colleges found in magazine guides and websites have few of the attributes educators commonly associate with the claim, such as accepting military credits or having a veteran’s organization on campus. Many are for-profit schools with low graduation rates.

The designations appear on rankings whose rigor varies but whose methods are under fire. Often, they’re also selling ads to the colleges. Some websites help connect military and veteran students with degree programs that may match their interests, but don’t disclose they are lead aggregators paid by the institutions often for-profit colleges whose programs they highlight.

Now, of course, many of these schools might actually enroll many veterans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean such schools are really serving veterans very well. Pope:

“They’re not real rankings,” said Tom Tarantino, a veteran who is deputy policy director of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “What they are is advertisement catalogues.” Labeling them “a huge problem,” he called for standards to be established for proper use of the term “military friendly” schools.

Maybe the problem is just the term. For-profit colleges are vocational, career preparation institutions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with their efforts to advertise on sites where veterans go to seek information.

But “friendly?” That’s a pretty ambiguous word to use when the subject is higher education and veterans.

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