Military Times recently released its annual reports of TA and Post-9/11 GI Bill schools, in their Top 50 colleges for tuition assistance and Top 50 colleges for Post-9/11 GI Bill reports for the 2015 academic year. The term “Top” does not imply “best”. Rather, these reports identify the “Top” 50 schools receiving the greatest amount of either DoD tuition assistance funds or Post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits.
Among the findings from their reports, one data element shows a drop in utilization in both of these military educational funding programs by service members and veterans across the DoD and the DVA. The DoD has seen enrollments decrease from approximately 355,000 in 2013 down to less than 291,000 in 2015.
Officials within the DoD attribute much of this decline to new and more stringent eligibility rules which has impacted on the number of service members using their respective service branches tuition assistance program. DoD Officials also state sequestration and Congressional Budget cuts are other possible reasons for the decline in total TA enrollments.
These and similar reports are used by members of our national leadership to cast dispersion on certain players in the military educational market, particularly for-profit institutions. Should the amount of TA dollars received be the only criteria in which to judge an institution? Of course not. Why then, isn’t more attention being paid to one of the other telling data sets in the report by Military Times? Why isn’t more attention being paid to “course completion rates”?
Even a cursory review of the data provided by the Military Times Top 50 colleges for tuition assistance report brings to light some very interesting information.
Firstly, there are only eight institutions with course completion rates greater than 90%; and of those eight, six are for-profit schools. Forty percent of all the for-profit institutions receiving DoD tuition assistance have course completion rates of 90% or greater.
Secondly, when you look at the data in aggregate, the following results come forward. The average course completion rate, based on the available data shows an average course completion rate of 91.1 for all schools; 92.9 percent for private institutions; 92.1 percent for for-profit institutions; and 88.2 percent in public institutions.
Looking at specific institutions we find that the number two school receiving DoD tuition assistance funding, a public institution, serving some 25,942 students using TA, has a course completion rate of 76 percent. This is 12 percent below the average for all public institutions, and 15 percent below the national average. Why isn’t this institution being investigated by the DoD?
Transparency and accountability are only good if standards are established and they are applied and enforced equitably to all parties. This is particularly true in the field of higher education and educating our nation’s military and veterans. All schools, regardless of being for-profit, private, or public need to be held to the same standards, period.
The data on course completion rates begs the question; why? Why do 40 percent of for-profit institutions have course completion rates in the 90’s? And; why does the largest public institution receiving tuition assistance funding only have a 76 percent course completion rate?
As both an educator and taxpayer, I know I would like to know the answer to these questions.