PBS Frontline: Vets, the GI Bill, and For-Profit Schools

When the Post-9/11 GI Bill went live in 2009, student-Veterans were not the only group who noticed a more generous payout. Universities across the country were happy to accept straight-up tuition payments without going through scholarship and loan hoops. But a growing sector of typically online universities, commonly referred to as for-profit schools, enjoyed an additional benefit: GI Bill tuition didn’t count in their profit margin restrictions on federal student loans. An explosion in active-duty and Veteran recruitment soon followed.

But are the degrees offered by these schools worth the hard-earned education benefits? Keith Wilson, VA’s Director of Education Service, warned Veterans that employers factor in the kind of university which applicants attend before they make a hiring decision. In other words, it’s not only that you graduate, but that you leave with a degree in hand from a credible university.

If you’re a student on the GI Bill now or thinking about using your education benefits later, it’d be worth your time to catch PBS Frontline tonight. “Educating Sergeant Pantzke” explores the for-profit industry’s sudden interest in Veteran education and addresses that age old question, “Is this worth my time and money?” It airs tonight at 9:00 PM ET. View the trailer here.

UPDATE 6/29 9:00 AM ET — As requested, the full episode of “Educating Sergeant Pantzke” has now been posted above. You can also watch it on the PBS Frontline website.

UPDATE #2 6/29 1:30 PM ET — The film’s producer and Daniel Golden, a journalist who covers for-profits for Bloomberg (and who was featured in the film) will be hosting a live chat at 3:00 PM ET. I won’t be around for it, but it should be good!

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18 Comments to “PBS Frontline: Vets, the GI Bill, and For-Profit Schools”

  1. MSgt Mark LaSalle, USAF (Retired) says:

    Watching this as I type. Please put this online afterwards!

    I advise all G.I.s to watch this and become more informed about the folks who want to separate them from their money.

    Caveat Emptor!

  2. Kelly says:

    Just watched this show and boy, it makes me so mad to see what Art Inst of America is doing!!! What a scam!!! They should be arrested! OOOOO it makes me SO MAD!!!!

  3. Tracy says:

    I used to run an MBA program at a major university and remember a soldier contacting me about getting his MBA. I always asked prospective students about their background and he mentioned a school that I had never heard of. I looked into it and the school was not accredited. This poor guy had been hoodwinked and our tax dollars wasted! From the perspective of a major college or university, the soldier’s degree didn’t count for anything. In order for him to continue his education, he would have to either start over and get a legitimate degree or get his “MBA” from one of these schools. I do hope for more regulation not just for vets, but for people who fall for the promises of these “schools.”

    • Adam says:

      What is sad is that the report deals with primarily institutions that are not regionally accredited. However, they splash University of Phoenix on the screen in order to get name recognition and fail to make the distinction between for profits that are accredited and those that are not.

      • Christine says:

        Try taking classes at UOP and transferring to any state school…credits will not convey. I was upset the nearly $8,000 I had spent attending classes at this college would not satisfy AA requirements at local community college.

  4. Adam says:

    The producers fail to make the distinction between actually accredited for profits, like University of Phoenix, and those who only have trade school accreditation, like ITT Tech / Carrington College / and most of the school this report deals with. If they had attended University of Phoenix or APU/AMU they would not have most of these problems.

    • Rose says:

      University of Phoenix not accredited by any reputable accreditation body. So, they’d have the SAME problems with potentially MORE debt.

      • Bill says:

        @Rose — that’s incorrect. University of Phoenix is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities. That’s the same “reputable” association that grants accreditation to schools like University of Oklahoma, University of Nebraska, University of Colorado, US Air Force Academy, Purdue University, etc.
        See the site at http://www.ncahlc.org/component/option,com_directory/Itemid,184/

  5. Jon says:

    And I would throw in some advice as well: For those of you still in the military, PAY ATTENTION IN YOUR TRANSISTION ASSISTANCE CLASS! I know this was covered in mine, hopefully everybody gets the same heads-up.

  6. Janet Taylor says:

    Can anyone help me I have filed my VA education benefits now 2 times, just got off phone again (might I add it has been 18 months and nothing) with the VA, to my surprise I am now being told I have to summit again? I have got my senator and congressman involved ( but get the same runaround from them like “do not call us we will call you and the famous I will call you back which you never get a call back) I need help with this and also I need my education benefits, I am honorably discharged even a Gulf War veteran. Was in the Army for 13 years 4 months, was also told by the VA rep if I go to the media with this then it is considered a threat againist homeland security, I do have all paperwork testifying to everything I have done to NO BENEFITS YET.

  7. James says:

    @Janet Something sounds fishy with your story. Is there something you’re not telling us?

    This whole thing frustrates me. Many Vets are simply not smart enough for college. That’s why they go to these shitty schools.

  8. Starbuck says:

    Until recently, I’ve seen University of Phoenix ads on AFN (haven’t watched in a while, though). Are they still airing these ads?

  9. Please don’t give your money to someone you know isn’t the best in your degree. We appreciate your decision to serve Americans and hope that you can make a wise decision into where you are going to choose a career next.

    Thanks for your decision to make our country free
    We love our Vets and hate!!!! anyone that takes advantage of them

    Please send this on to anyone you feel is doing this and copy me in too, I would like to know who is taking advantage of our Vets! Thanks Bill and Melinda Gates!

    Dr. Todd Williams
    1244 Illinois Ave
    Pittsburgh, PA 15216

  10. Bill says:

    What I wished was mentioned in the video was the REQUIREMENT for an advanced academic degree (AAD) among Air Force officers, I presume sister services as well, for promotion and advancement. With multiple deployments and high operations tempo, there are few institutions that accommodate an active duty service member’s need for a quality education short of “checking the box” at for-profit schools. In addition to GI Bill dollars, military branch specific Tuition Assistance programs also supplement, augment or are otherwise sources of revenue for these schools.

    In short, the service demands a degree (any degree from anywhere) for promotion considerations and these intuitions are well suited to take the money without a credible return on federal tax-payer dollar investment. The system is broken and the military is equally culpable. Make demands of institutions (credit transfer, more stringent certifications) or don’t allow their participation in the GI Bill. Educate service members on what their “degree” will be worth in the civil sector upon separation. Reconsider the blind requirement for any AAD from any institution in promotions. Stop feeding the beast that is taking advantage of service members and our money.

  11. UOP Graduate says:

    I am a graduate of UOP and am not surprised traditionally educated individuals would go out of their way to bash nontraditional ways for less equipped citizens to accomplish the same status. It is all about job security and status “the man” already holds in society as an educated citizen who demands respect: If they can prevent the credibility of all “other” colleges, they will maintain the appearance of superiority. There was no differentiation between the good and bad colleges; hence in their eyes, UOP is just as bad.

    • Mike Miller says:

      What better status to have than to have honorably served your country and completed your education!

  12. Mike Miller says:

    I am a 24 year Air Force veteran (Ret). I am attending University of Phoenix because of their regional and national accreditation. Additionally, I found UOP to be convenient for me to attend school after work. I tried applying to UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University, but I hit too many snags with various issues. In particular, one can’t REALLY retire from the military so I have to keep working to support my family. None of the leading universities in my area offered night education to coincide with my busy life. That being said, I opted for UOP because of convenience. Also, I think this is one of the major reasons why for-profit colleges are seeing a larger share and increase in veteran attendance. Most veterans when leaving the military can’t just stop working – they have to support their family. This means working during the day and going to school at night.

    I was really troubled after seeing this PBS Frontline special on TV last night. It really put a lot of doubt in my mind about the legitimacy of the degree I am working towards. I say legitimacy because I heard the President of Vet Jobs.com, Ted Daywalt speak about Human Resource departments and hiring authorities giving preferential treatment to non-profit universities such as state universities versus colleges like UOP. I have thought about this subject all along in my studies. I even asked many of my instructor’s their thoughts and input about how UOP degrees are viewed. All have told me that UOP is held in high regard and has higher accreditation ratings than some major universities. I posed this question to my HR department today. They said that they take a whole list of variables into account – Variables such as experience, specialty schools (Cal Tech, MIT, etc.), qualifications, etc.

    I would really like to get a measurement of just how my degree (BSBM) will be viewed by perspective employers. I appreciate any feedback!