Military Attracted To Online Education

Compiled By Staff
December 16, 2009

U.S. military are increasingly pursuing post-secondary degrees online, and mostly through for-profit institutions.

Bloomberg reports that according to Defense Department and military data, for-profit online colleges now make up 29 percent of college enrollments and 40 percent of federal tuition assistance for active-duty students. The latter figure is higher than the assistance given for public and private nonprofit colleges.

"It's about flexibility and options," noted Rick Cooper, vice president of military and corporate programs at Columbia Southern University in Alabama, who was quoted by Bloomberg. "You can enroll any day of the week, any week of the year."

The increased enrollment comes as a result of the Post 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, known as the "Post 9/11 GI Bill," which came into effect on August 1, 2009. The new legislation provides higher education benefits to military members who served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including tuition, housing allowances and book stipends. Veterans are also eligible to enroll in private institutions, out-of-state universities, and graduate programs tuition-free through the Yellow Ribbon program.

This week, ICDC College announced that the new GI Bill has spurred increased enrollment of military members in its online associate's degree and diploma programs. "Potential military students do their homework," explained Lisa L. McGloiry, the school's director of media relations, who was quoted in a press release. "They understand that even with a successful military background they will need a college to help them transition into careers that lead to employability."

Similarly, Kaplan University, a provider of online postsecondary education, was recently named one of America's Top 20 Military Friendly Colleges and Universities for 2009 by Military Advanced Education magazine. According to a press release, the institution employs specially trained military admissions, academic and financial aid advisors and currently serves more than 8,000 military students, spouses and veterans.

"Kaplan University is committed to providing its military students with support services that address their unique needs," said Gregory Marino, president of the Kaplan University Group.

Yet critics argue that luring military students is leading some for-profit online institutions to increase aggressive marketing tactics and take educational shortcuts. "In these schools, the rule is faster and easier," noted Greg von Lehmen, chief academic officer of the University of Maryland University College, who was quoted by Bloomberg. "They're characterized by increasingly compressed course lengths and low academic expectations. One has to ask: Is the Department of Defense getting what it is seeking?"

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