Veterans Deserve Choice of Quality Higher Education

ArmedForcesMilitaryHistorically, Democrats have been politically vulnerable on military issues. The recent missteps President Barack Obama has made in dealing with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the situation in Syria are hurting his party’s chances for keeping control of the Senate in the next Congress. Another problem for the President and Congressional Democrats, is having to spend the 2014 election cycle explaining to voters why our Veterans Hospitals are government-run healthcare disasters. In Phoenix, Veterans Administration secretary Robert McDonald acknowledged that secret waiting lists and bad care needlessly “caused the death of veterans.”

Why is such an outrage possible? Answer: because Democrats reflexively favor government bureaucracy over the free marketplace. Sadly, at no point will the President’s suggested reforms for veterans involve private hospitals or voucher-based coverage, even though that could mean better outcomes for the brave men and women who have served our nation in the armed forces. And while it is not life-and-death, the same can be said for efforts to educate active-duty military and younger veterans.

Recent veterans face a disproportionately high unemployment rate. According to the Department of Labor, about nine percent of servicemen and women who have served or enlisted since 2001, are unemployed. The unemployment rate for the general population is about four points lower. Additionally, recently retired military encounter obstacles that civilians can barely comprehend such as PTSD and bureaucratic red tape that forces qualified applicants to be re-certified for certain civilian jobs. However, one thing that can be done to help current military and recent veterans is attending a school that is designed to help them prepare for finding a job outside of the service.

One such school is the American Military University (AMU). Founded by a Marine Corps officer in 1991, the school was created to help veterans succeed in the public sector after their service is concluded.

Many veterans do not want to attend a traditional university, due to their age and lifetime experience differences. AMU meets the needs of those non-traditional students and it has attracted more military students than any other school. With more than 100,000 students enrolled, almost 60% of those students are active duty military. AMU is ranked #1 among military students and 45% of those students return for a second degree.

While tuition at traditional, four-year public universities has increased about 5.6% per year since 2001, AMU has not increased its tuition over that same time period. Despite charging students the same amount over the last thirteen years, US News and World Report still ranked AMU’s online degree program as the 34th best in the nation.

Another advantage of AMU is that it is willing to accept military training as college credit. By acknowledging the specialized training our service members receive, AMU can expedite the amount of energy spent on earning a degree; thus, saving time and money while providing a sound education and good value for its students.

Despite AMU’s successes, some progressives and Democrats have a problem with AMU – mainly that AMU is a for-profit college. The fact is, many liberals reflexively oppose the private-sector performing services they believe should be fulfilled by non-profit or public institutions.

AMU’s leading antagonist is Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Senator Durbin believes that the school intentionally misleads service members into believing it is affiliated with the US military, because its name includes the word “Military.” That seems a little far-fetched. In addition, Durbin is proposing to change current regulations – known as the 90/10 Rule – that applies to all for-profit colleges, which will restrict current military and veterans from having access to many for-profit schools. This effort is misguided, because it punishes for-profit schools regardless of the quality of education they provide.

I understand that some for-profit colleges are bad actors and steering our military and veterans away from these schools would be a good thing. But, not all for-profit colleges are created the same, and clearly, the good for-profits play an important role to educate those who have bravely defended our nation.

Thankfully, the Senate seems to have ignored Senator Durbin’s legislation, which would hurt schools that do a good job of serving the military and recent veterans. But, sadly, the attacks on innovative, for-profit colleges will continue, again, because progressives refuse to see the value in the free-marketplace. By utilizing good for-profit schools, it reduces the demand on public institutions and allows the private sector to help retired veterans and active duty military. This is something, which should be applauded, not unfairly assailed by a Democratic Senator.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ken Blackwell_2Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

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