Is Targeting “For-Profit” Schools Fair?

Senator Webb recently introduced the “Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012” (S. 2179). According to Webb’s press release, if passed, the act will protect the integrity of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and military tuition assistance. Most who read the press release will note that the Senate seems to be targeting all private “for-profit” schools.

Webb’s bill would accomplish many of the same goals as the DoD’s Voluntary Education Partnership MOU. And, like the MOU, the objective is to ensure that both student veterans and tax payers are protected from schools that use false advertising, false claims, and other shady admissions practices from preying on students.

Unfortunately, the language used in the press release and associated news articles paints private “for-profit” colleges and universities with a very broad brush; making it sound as if a large number of for-profit schools are out to rip off student veterans. Unlike the bill itself, the attacks do little to serve veterans or tax payers. It is important to remember that most for-profit schools are offering services many public schools are not willing or able to.

As many veterans know, for-profit schools are popular with servicemembers and student veterans because they offer the degree completion programs, non-traditional delivery methods and flexibility that are not normally offered by many state-operated “public” universities.

For example, some public schools don’t offer veterans credit for the CLEP and DSST exams unless they score in the upper percentiles. A large number of public schools require “state residency” for veterans to get their tuition covered fully by the GI Bill. A few public schools offer little-to-no credit for military experience (as recommended by the American Council on Education – ACE). And, at some public colleges and universities the competition for enrolling in required courses can make it difficult to make the graduation requirements.

The truth is, nearly all schools have students who have legitimate complaints or feel cheated by the graduation and/or admissions requirements. Many veterans feel trapped by having to retake course work or not being given the credits they earned from past studies and coursework. Many public, private, for-profit, and non-profit schools have been known to make transferring credits between schools difficult or impossible – even when the schools are “regionally accredited” and belong to the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges consortium.

What’s in the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012?

To ensure schools receiving GI Bill and military tuition assistance funds don’t exceed the 33 percent undergraduate dropout rate, which is required for federal education funding, Webb’s bill would require ALL schools to report graduation rates and loan default rates. This seems more than fair, until you realize that the military student is different from your typical civilian student. Unlike the general population, military students deal with Op-Tempo, Deployments, and frequent PCS transfers that make it take longer to graduate and often force disenrollment and frequent school changes. These factors alone are likely to make tracking graduation rates impossible. But, to make it worse, the current system for tracking graduation rates only captures first-time, full-time, students – not your typical military student.

The bill would also require schools that have more than 20 GI Bill or tuition assistance students to offer support services and one-on-one counseling. The VA and DoD would have to develop a centralized complaint process to report fraud or misrepresentation and state authorizing agencies would be required to conduct audits in addition to their current screening duties.

It should be noted that most schools (public and private) are currently doing a good job of serving veterans and many are looking for ways to improve their services and offerings. 

Senator Webb’s proposed legislation could do much to ensure servicemembers and veterans who wish to go back to school are treated fairly and have the counseling they need to be successful.

BTW – Despite the rhetoric, Webb’s bill applies to ALL colleges and universities that wish to participate in the GI Bill or military tuition assistance, not just for-profits.

Read the full article about Webb’s bill on

About the Author

Terry Howell
Before becoming the Managing Editor for, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.

    If it helps the armed forces than I am for it

    • T. MacArthur

      The problem is that most for profit schools do NOT help the Armed Forces, they screw their ,em,bers and veterans.

  • Esoterix

    The thing with degrees from ‘for profit’ schools are they tend to weigh less than those earned from an accredited college/university because, let’s face it, the value of education that you will get is just not the same. Given a choice between hiring someone who earned ther degree from a ‘for profit’ school or an accredited college/university, I always hire those that graduate from the colle/university. Course work is more comprehensive, in addition to a university/college graduate tend to be more well rounded. There are requirements that most people think are a waste of time; however, it helps a person’s overall job performance such as cognitive skills, critical thinking, and people relations skills. Most non-profit schools only teach the technical requirements which leave them lacking when problems or various situations arise. With that said, I believe the bill is only trying to help/protect individuals so that if/when they decide to use their hard-earned GI Bill on a ‘for profit’ school, it won’t be waste. So that upon graduation, they are armed with a degree that can compete with those who graduated from an accredited college/university, in addition to the experience they already have.

    • itgetsbetter

      I completely disagree Estoerix! Empircal evidence from unbias evaluators show that the vast majority of for profit universities have rigorous,

      Really, have you looked at some of the ‘quality’ courses offered at public universities? With NCAA scandals, abuses of grant money, violence, alcohol poisonings, is the insitution reallly far superior.

      I recommend you evaluate an individual on their own abilities, and not put such emphasis on where they went to school.

      By the way, career schools, like community colleges who have technical degrees, focus on the technical. But when you examine which group gets jobs at a higher rate, career (for profit) institutions have a much better track record.
      Finally, the vast majority of for profit universities are accredited by the same bodies that accredit public and prestigious private universities. This is a fact. Check out their regional accreditiation and you will see it is true.

      • mike

        As a student with a for-profit degree and very good people skills, I can confirm For-profit degrees are GARBAGE.

        I get passed up for so many job interviews because of it.

    • T. MacArthur

      THAT is the problem. The vast majority of for-profit school;s are not accredited, beyond an “accreditation” from the organization that used to “accredit” the kinds of “schools” that were advertised on matchbook covers. The schools have a system that locks the student in. If any money is owed to the school, they will not issue a diploma or anything else. If a student withdraws, he or she finds that all the work done and all the money paid was wasted. None of the credits are accepted anywhere else, including, in almost all cases, other for profit schools. For profit schools have been around a long time, but since the post-911 GI Bill, there has been an explosion in both the number of them and the size of previously existing ones. There can be no doubt that they are specifically targeting veterans because as a group they fit into the perfect target audience. People with funds available to pay and who have limited knowledge of the realities of higher education, especially of the necessity of obtaining a degree from a school that is fully accredited, so that all employers will accept it, other schools will accept it if one wishes to obtain an advanced degree, and one from which other schools will accept any credits earned if the student has to change schools for any reason.

  • Kalani


    This is just my opinion, but I think you’re greatly misinformed on for-profit education. Most colleges (private, for-profit, and public) have similar courses, course materials, and faculty. Many colleges offer online degrees (to include Stanford, Harvard – to an extent, and UMASS). The education and learning platforms are, in many cases, virtually indistinguishable across the spectrum of universities. Ever hear of “grade inflation?” This isn’t a just a problem at mom and pop universities, but at the “elite” schools too. I could go on for hours, but to distinguish between most colleges is fairly subjective. I think it is time to move beyond old mental models of education and move forward. FYI, most for-profit universities are accredited.

    • sircliveiv

      The isssue is by whom the accreditation is performed. Many of these
      for profit schools have gotten together and formed their own agency for
      accreditation which does little more than validate these below par
      schools. This is far different than the process used by the legitimate
      regional and national accreditation agencies used by public and private
      non-profit colleges and universities.

      • nonprofit professor

        I completely disagree – the vast majority of for profit schools are small career schools, and with very few exceptions – even these are nationally accredited by agencies recognized by the Department of education. You are very misinformed here.

        The big players (American Military University, University of Phoenix, DeVry University) are regionally accredited, meaning they are evaluated by their peers at public and prestigious private universities. That is a fact.

        • mike

          The wall street traded ones are the criminals.

      • GSCBE

        Hello all, as and enlisted member and officer with 20+ years and a Professor instructing in not-for-profit and for profits I can tell you that you must educate your self before selecting a college or university. First, accreditation is important and some for profits are accredited through highly reputable agencies. If you you are unsure what accreditation is good look at a major university in your area as University of Florida, etc. and see if your for profit is accredited by the same agency which indicates that standards are high. Secondly, state institutions receive billions of dollars for education so do not assume that there is no lobby for money. Lastly, professor’s in not-for-profits and for profits should have graduated from accredited universities using the standards mentioned earlier. Not all for profits are bad but I would be careful in regards to accreditations that are not associated with large institutions. Follow these steps and protect your GI BILL. Also, be careful regarding hearsay as some blogs are opinion and not facts. Do a little investigation on the standards mentioned.

    • T. MacArthur

      WRONG!!!! Many for profit schools do have decent instruction. However, almost none (as far as I actually know, none, but some may be) are accredited by any of the accepted higher education accrediting organizations. In many cases, they could never meet the bar for accreditation. In other cases, they do not want to devote the resources needed (read money) to get through the accreditation process. One large obstacle to real accreditation, in fact, is that their “admissions” process is really a sales organization, devoted overall to getting people signed up, with no attention paid to the prospective student’s academic welfare. The lack of accreditation (and many claim they ARE accredited,m they just forget to mention that it’s by the same kind of outfit that used to accredit correspondence schools advertised on matchbook covers) means that few employers give much if any weight to their “degrees” except, in some cases, for employers in the same local area as the school itself, the “degrees” earned are not accepted at other schools if one wishes, for example, to pursue a masters, and if one does not finish the degree, one finds that the credits earned are also not accepted at other schools. By “other schools” I mean any properly accredited school. However, in many cases, for profit credits and degrees are not even accepted by other for profit schools.

      • student

        T.MacArthur, yes there are for-profits that are regionally accredited. There are six Regional Accrediting organizations in the US. It is easy to look up which schools are accredited and which are not. So do your research before claiming ALL for-profits as not being “properly accredited”.

      • GSRG

        Hello, please do not put out information on hearsay. I sit on accreditation committees. SACS, and the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools is a good start. There are for profits that are on their lists..

    • RetiredArmySGT

      All this crap about a degree from one university is valued more than that from another university is a bunch of crap. That’s the excuse used by graduates of big-name universities in order to discriminate against graduates of other schools they hold in lesser regard. Wow, so since my university doesn’t have an NCAA football or basketball program my degree is worth less. . .please!!! I’ve found that many of these lesser regarded universities actually do a better job of educating students than indoctrinating them with liberal views like the Harvard’s, Berkeley’s, and UCLA’s.

    • CoVet

      They may be accredited but the number of people graduating from them is under the norm and those able to get jobs is also lower then most.

  • Ruby

    It’s good that ALL schools post data about student loan debt, graduate employment, and actual graduation rates. Because there’s also a lot of public state schools that have poor records in these regards. Though it may be more realistic to use an 8 year standard for Active Duty military students, who can typically manage a maximum of 3 classes per year, 5 on a compressed semester schedule, unlike traditional college students, who typically take at least 8 and up to 12 classes per year.

    To the average military student I would say, go with what works. The compressed schedule and flexibility of a distance degree is a good fit for the typical military student. But be aware that there are some non-profit schools, with a bricks and mortar presence, that offer such a degree though! For example, here in San Antonio there’s the University of the Incarnate Word which has 8 week online classes leading to several different Bachelors degrees. A degree which doesn’t scream “online!” might help when you transition into today’s tough civilian job market.

    To the Veteran student, I would say, use that Post 9/11 degree to your best advantage. Don’t just stamp the degree box, exceed the standard. Don’t just succeed, excel.

    There are prestigious colleges and universities completely covered by this new GI Bill, or the GI Bill coupled with the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, to cover the expenses beyond the GI Bill’s base benefits. Near as I can tell from their website, the Post 9/11 GI Bill will cover a degree from these schools. And many of them do have online programs if that’s what you need:

    Texas A &M, University of Illinois, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, New York University, University of Nebraska, University of Alabama, George Washington, Renneslaer Polytechnic, Pepperdine, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, Northeastern University, and University of Denver.

    • student of highered

      Ruby – you missed the most popular choices for military and veteran students, University of Maryland University College and the University of Oklahoma. Their costs are within the tuition assitance rate (currently $250.00 per credit hour) – I can tell you the majority of the list above would consider military students as out of state and would charge military members lots more than that!
      This is one of many reasons that military students choose good, rigorous for profit institutions.
      By the way, the implication that military and veteran students are duped and stupid is very offensive to me. These are street smart customers (I know, higher education hates that word but they are consumers) and they choose programs that meet their educational desires.

      • student of highered

        to clarify, I did not mean you were implying these students were stupid. I mean those that put forth the argument (such as our elected officials) When I reviewed my comment, I overlooked directing that comment at lawmakers. I am sorry if it came across otherwise.

        We have victims everywhere in our society. We also have victors. I think there needs to be some success stories of veterans who attended for profit insitutions who are successful business owners.

      • Ruby

        Both UMUC and Oklahoma are also good choices!

        As far as out-of-state tuition, with the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program, this is less of a concern than it when you only have Tuition Assistance to work with.

        Some for-profit schools do perfectly for many students. It’s an individual choice – if you have marketable skills already, experience, and a shot at a career field similar to the one you were in in the military, it doesn’t much matter where you get that degree. The offerings at many for-profit institutes will get you where you are going, no problems. If you are transitioning to a different career field, where you have little or no experience, though, I’d advise you to place a bit more weight on the “name brand” of your degree. This, quite independent of the actual quality of your courses!

        And my original point was simply this: the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a chance to get a free education at hundreds of colleges and universities. Don’t take the opportunity lightly. Why not go for highest caliber of school you can get into? The kind of school that will open doors for you for the rest of your life? It’s what many students did with the original GI Bill after World War II. Thousands of young men from farms and working class families went to Ivy League colleges and became our nation’s next generation of leaders.

        Like I said, don’t just succeed. Excel.

  • Mike

    Targeting the for-profit colleges is fair because they’re actively ripping off normal civilians out of federal funding as it is, making up 90% of their revenue and now they’re supplementing the remaining 10% with GI BILL money and ‘other sources’ including bogus private loans. Both schools pulled the same deceptive practices that the GAO found in 2010.

    They just lobby their butt off to try to keep ti going.

    The problem is these programs are garbage. Bait meant to draw in those that aren’t fully informed with college costs and degree requirements. They’re blindsided with impulse based programs.

    EDMC, CEC, and the others use this to an advantage like no other.
    They mask it as “INNOVATION” to make themselves sound good. It’s just sub prime mortgage-like garbage.

    They just want to funnel people through for the federal funding.
    I am a veteran (pre 2008 GI BILL). I went to a school run by CEC and a school run by EDMC.

    The CEC school gave me the WRONG degree in the end. The school run by EDMC (Art Institutes) straight out lied about pretty much everything job placement, entry requirements, school program credentials, and more. They even had the nerve to lie and say that PRIVATE LOANS were FEDERAL when Sallie Mae was still issuing Federal loans.

    They thrive on the fact they prey on UNINFORMED CONSUMERS that they can confuse with high hopes and the student loan deferments keep them going.

    Add in the fact that GI’s only get the GI BILL ONCE in their life, its wasted at these DEBT FACTORIES. Especially since the GI BILL won’t cover EVERYTHING. They still end up suckered into student loans in the end.

    As a veteran, I fully feel these schools are nothing but scammers in disguise.

    This is the latest wall street scam.

  • Gater

    What I struggle with the most is that now you have investors lobbying congress to relax the rules for the loans. Plus the for profit schools are now publicly traded. With this there in absolutely no risk to the investors because the debt is federally funded and you can’t default on the debt. You can’t file for bankruptcy on a student loan so your investment is protected by the US government. Check out Goldman Sac’s investment in for profit colleges. They own a good percentage of the stock offerings which makes them owners of the institutions. When they changed the laws in 1999 so that for profit schools didn’t have to have a actual campus is where the whole thing went south. The investment banks have set their sites on education for the next big bubble.

  • PolicyStudent

    If you have a story about student loan debt as a result of attending a for-profit school, could you email me? I’m collecting stories about how people have been affected by large for-profit post-secondary school student loans. I’m a law student working on a policy fix so we can change how schools hide the loan information, and make them share loan information *before* students sign up for these loans. email:

  • Russ

    i was warned by the Director (a former Seabee’s CO) of my Veterans Upward Bound Det that for-profits ripped off vets because of the certainty of payment via the GI Bill, while many times a lot of their credits don’t even transfer to credited colleges. I could be wrong, but I’d just say “buyer beware”.

  • Maryann Bodeker

    Your BTW is incorrect. Senator Webb’s bill is intented to make the GI Bill and Military tuition assistance dollars count toward the 90(Federal Dollars) instead of the 10(Cash resources) which it currently is counted towards. The 90-10 rule only applies to private and proprietary schools so he is targeting them.

  • J. Lewis

    My experiences with students that have attended the for profit schools have not been positive. Many of the students did not receive counseling about that the course work would not transfer to accredited schools. They often are saddled a financial debt that will follow them for the rest of their lives and have nothing to show for the efforts. With community college and four year institutions, the student can track where they have been and can feel some sense of achivement. The congress should make for profit schools meet the same criteria as any othe institution. Not give in to the short theme that is pushed by these for profit, for the investors places.

  • what-to-do

    Just to be clear, there are some good for profit schools out there that are in fact regionally accredited. I think that is one of the main things to look for when enrolling in a school.

    I got my Bachelor’s from a brick and mortor (UMASS) and am now enrolled in one of AMU’s graduate programs. I don’t think UMASS was any better than AMU. Both are regionally accredited, which ensures some standard of education is being met. Although I am considering possibly transferring to a not-for-profit school, just to avoid the for-profit stigma. Still on the fence about that though because overall I am happy with AMU.