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Tactical Veteran: Put school to the test before you enroll

Aug. 5, 2014 - 02:48PM   |  
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Knowing you have GI Bill benefits to cover the cost of tuition for school should make the decision to attend college easier. But at a time when the government is cracking down on some for-profit schools that put marketing ahead of education, many veterans fail to note what they’ll get in return from the college they choose.

Those marketing strategies of certain schools are worrisome enough. An even bigger issue is their ability to hold proper accreditation — which could make or break your chances of getting hired down the road with a degree in hand from such a school.

Accreditation in this context aims to ensure colleges and universities meet acceptable levels of quality. There are several accrediting agencies that devise standards and review schools to check that they meet the standards.

Accreditation is something many of us don’t think to ask about when we talk to an admissions counselor. But imagine earning a degree in the medical field, then applying for jobs only to be told that your degree is not recognized because the school is not properly accredited.

It pays to do some research. Two great resources are the Department of Education’s accreditation database at http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/ and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation at www.chea.org/search/default.asp.

In July, Student Veterans of America came out with a “Not Recommended List” to make veterans aware of the education institutions with unclear futures. Schools that are currently on this list were owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., which has agreed to sell off 85 of its 97 U.S. schools after the Education Department restricted the company’s access to federal student aid, according to an Aug. 4 Military Times story.

I hope in the near future SVA also will add education institutions that have questionable accreditation to the list, as this could help save veterans from making a big mistake working toward a degree that won’t have much value. To read more on the SVA Not Recommended List, check out www.militarytimes.com/svalist.

I can’t say that graduates of schools with questionable accreditation never get hired, but you need to think about this before you risk wasting your valuable GI Bill benefits.

You wouldn’t buy a car or a big-screen TV without checking them out first. The same holds true when shopping for colleges. Earning a degree from a school with appropriate accreditation is an easy and beneficial step on the path to finding a good job.

Steven Maieli is the founder of Transitioning Veteran.com, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans’ issues at www.transitioningveteran.com/wordpress. Send questions and comments to tacticalveteran@militarytimes.com.

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