Here's How College Scams Target Our Veterans

July 28th 2015

Thor Benson

As John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight last September, there are many problems with for-profit colleges. He pointed out they account for around one-third of student loans while only carrying about 13 percent of college students. For-profit colleges can be five to six times more expensive than a community college, and they can cost twice as much as a four-year state university. They often spend 25 percent of their budgets on advertising and sales, while only putting half that toward paying teachers. They get as much as 90 percent of their revenue from government loans, and the other 10 percent is often from funding such as the G.I. Bill, which is how veterans pay for college. On top of all of that, many programs at for-profit colleges graduate very few students.

That's a lot to absorb, so we'll get into some details. First, the G.I. Bill. It was first created in 1944, and it provides money to veterans to attend college, among other things. Funds from the G.I. Bill do not count against the 90 percent limit for federal aid these colleges can accept, so many of these colleges have started viciously going after veterans and their families and have convinced them to pay high prices for college experiences that are likely not very high quality.

Furthermore, for-profit groups like Corinthian Colleges were found using official seals of the main military branches in advertising to trick prospective students from the military into thinking the entities were connected. Another group, called QuinStreet, had to settle a $2.5 million claim in June after it was found the group was operating websites like, which was presented as a service for finding schools where G.I. Bill funds could be used for tuition, but it was actually selling the personal information of veterans to for-profit institutions.

A bill that would eliminate the G.I. Bill loophole called the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act has been introduced in Congress, but it has not received a ton of support or attention. It's estimated 40 percent of post-9/11 G.I. Bill education funds have gone to pay tuition at for-profit colleges, according to a study from Congress.

One of the main issues is that, often in marketing and advertising material, these for-profit colleges are leading people to believe they will actually get a job once they graduate. Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit college corporation, recently had to close its last 28 campuses due to the fact it was being sued by many former students and investigated by the government for allegedly leading people to believe more graduates were finding work than actually were. The government is assisting in relieving the debt of these students, and it has been called a sign of a failing industry. These colleges often use people's fears about their future against them to get them to enroll.

A 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found students who attend online for-profit schools are 22 percent less likely to be called by employers after applying for a job. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 32 percent of students at for-profits graduate, while nearly twice as many graduate at public institutions.

Many education organizations have been critical of the for-profit college system. "They treat education as a private good or credential that must be purchased by an individual at a steep cost," Gwendolyn Bradley, a senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), told ATTN:. She said the AAUP believes education is a public good that should be accessible and high quality, and for-profit schools are not facilitating that kind of situation.

Bradley said for-profits have problems of their own but also take problems found in state universities and community colleges "to the extreme." She said full-time, tenure-track faculty appointments are decreasing in many parts of the higher education system, and many for-profit colleges are taking that to the next level by solely hiring part-time professors who work on short contracts.

"Faculty in such positions frequently have no control over the content they teach, no protections for their academic freedom, rarely interact with other faculty, receive no support for professional development, and are forced by the low pay into teaching way too many students," she said.

Bradley knows that many for-profit colleges operate entirely online, which could be seen as a benefit for students who cannot or do not want to learn on a campus, but many colleges and universities are now offering online courses, so it is not such a unique concept anymore.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities did not immediately respond to ATTN:'s request for a comment.

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Posted by ATTN: on Wednesday, June 17, 2015