As veterans return home from combat and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, many have turned to for-profit colleges because of the schools' unique ability to meet their needs. Yet these schools have been criticized for their cost and high dropout and student loan default rates.
In a recent editorial for Military Times, RAND Corporation policy researcher Jennifer Steele notes that several factors explain why veterans are attracted to for-profit colleges. Her editorial, based on a recent RAND study published with the American Council on Education, cites the following considerations:
- For-profit colleges frequently offer tuition rates that match allowable GI benefits.
- For-profit colleges focus on adult learners, offering flexible classes that meet on evenings and weekends and emphasize career-relevant skills.
- Some for-profit colleges have locations in multiple states, providing flexibility to students who think they might relocate during their studies.
- For-profit colleges often make it easy to transfer credits from military coursework and, in some cases, on-the-job military training.
These factors help explain the high satisfaction rates among the study's survey participants: Sixty percent of respondents at for-profit colleges said that they were satisfied with credit transfers, versus only 27 percent of community college respondents and 41 percent of respondents at public four-year colleges. Only participants from private nonprofit colleges reported higher satisfaction rates, at 82 percent. Additionally, 67 percent of respondents at for-profit colleges said that they were satisfied with academic advising, versus approximately 50 percent of respondents at other types of institutions.
Steele explains that the RAND study also recognizes problems with some for-profit schools, including aggressive enrollment practices and inadequate staffing to serve the health and transition needs of veterans. However, there is much in these programs that appeals to veterans, potentially offering lessons for other schools about how to best serve the needs of returning service members.
For questions or an opportunity to discuss this or other RAND research, please contact me at Jill_Brimmer@rand.org, (703) 413-1100 ext. 5299.
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