Why you should say NO when for-profit colleges come recruiting

Sailors learning about education opportunities during an educational fair held at the Navy college office on board Naval Station Norfolk in 2007. The fair hosted more than 20 schools and provided information to approximately 300 prospective students. (Courtesy Photo)

By Howard Dvorkin, CPA and president of Debt.com

Our military protects the United States. Now some of those states want to protect the military – from for-profit colleges.

Nine states are fighting a move by Congress to allow these colleges to recruit on military bases. They call them “predators.”

Why? Because for-profit colleges have made national news for charging huge tuition and delivering a meager education. The federal government investigated these schools and concluded, “Too many students leave with debt, but no degree.” Meanwhile, the owners of these schools take up to 90 percent of the federal student aid that’s supposed to go to students.

(You know something’s wrong when The Onion makes fun of it by saying, “Suing the founder for damages will be really difficult if he wins the presidential election” and “Degree will really mean something to prospective employers who know your alma mater from its storied legacy of federal investigations.”)

Regardless, a Democratic Senator from West Virginia wants to remove restrictions that essentially ban for-profit schools from touting themselves on military bases. Joe Manchin puts it this way

Current legislation restricts a number of veteran and service member friendly educational institutions from accessing military installations, which makes it increasingly difficult for service members to continue their education while serving in uniform. Senator Manchin’s amendment removes these restrictions and allows military post commanders to grant access as they see fit, which allows service members greater access to education. 

However, California’s attorney general put it another way. Here’s Kala Harris

“Predatory schemes targeting veterans are unconscionable. The proposed amendment would weaken current rules intended to protect our servicemembers, and harm veterans by making them vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.  We must protect our nation’s veterans and servicemembers from predators who would exploit them for their educational benefits.

So who’s right?

I’m a financial expert, not a military one. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I believe in not only freedom of speech, but freedom of commerce. As long as for-profit colleges are legal, why should our military be denied meeting with their recruiters?

On the other hand, I disapprove of for-profit colleges. Two years ago this month, I compared traditional schools to their for-profit cousins

Traditional schools are decades or even centuries old, and they have a track record you can research: How many students actually graduate? What kinds of jobs do those graduates get? What’s the average cost of tuition, dorms, and meals per year?

For-profit colleges are different. They’re essentially businesses out to make money — as all businesses should. Problem is, they often charge more for the same education you can get at public institutions.

So whatever Congress does with Sen. Manchin’s proposal, I urge you to look into an education the old-fashioned way before you explore for-profit schools. You’re likely to get more for your money, as well as the government’s.

Service members and their families can get a FREE personalized debt analysis by calling Debt.com at 844-382-7977. Speak with a trained financial counselor who will give free, proven advice with no obligation or charge.

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