Veterans Deserve Better

Jan 31, 2012

While the military does provide a great deal of training to our troops, many veterans find out that not all of those skills or certifications are immediately transferable when they return to civilian life. Obtaining training and gaining experience as a combat medic, for instance, does not immediately make one qualified or certified to be a civilian nurse. Many military mechanics often need more training in order to find employment in commercial settings. As such, most veterans find themselves in need of more education when their service to our nation ends.

Knowing this, a new bill introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) becomes all the less defensible. The bill would cut the percentage of funding that for-profit institutions of higher education receive from the federal government and include funding that comes from military sources under that cap, which is currently excluded from the calculation. 

Enacting either of these provisions into law would significantly drain the pool of opportunities afforded to veterans. For-profit institutions would be forced to severely limit the number of veterans they serve in order to qualify for future federal funding and sustain their operations. Since many public community colleges and four-year institutions are unable to adequately provide an education for all students, this action would force many of our veterans to forgo an education altogether. And given the many virtual and flexible learning programs offered by for-profit institutions that are unavailable through public resources, this significantly impacts the ability of active duty military officers to continue their education while making the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

Furthermore, Senators Harkin and Durbin have continually questioned the quality of the education provided to not only our veterans, but to all Americans. The only evidence they offer are graduation rates, which say absolutely nothing about educational quality. College graduation rates are heavily impacted by a wide variety of factors, including student transfer, dropping out due to family circumstances, and the need for remediation. All of those factors are amplified at both for-profit institutions and at public community colleges, who typically serve our most at-risk populations. Unless Senators Harkin and Durbin have access to some information that no one else in the world does, it’s utterly impossible to objectively determine the quality of the education provided by any institution of higher education based on graduation rates alone, regardless of whether we’re talking about the University of Michigan or the University of Phoenix.

Simply put, our veterans deserve the opportunity to learn in the manner that best suits their needs. They earned that right when they laid their lives on the line. Denying them this opportunity at a time when our nation desperately needs hard working, skilled employees in order to expand our economy is nonsensical. All of this can only lead one to the conclusion that this bill is nothing less than a narrowly-tailored piece of legislation aimed solely at harming for-profit institutions, rather than advancing or protecting our nation’s best interests.

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