Veterans: Be Cautious About Non-Accredited College Programs

By Robert Mark on April 20th, 2012

As a Vietnam-Era veteran myself and someone who used the G.I. Bill to cover the cost of some of my early flight training, I was more than a little interested when June Olsen approached me about writing a story about today’s G.I. Bill (Actually, I’m always interested in aviation-focused guest post from good writers).

June recently graduated with a degree in educational psychology and works as a writer on all things education from her home in Bellevue Washington.  She’s always interested in connecting with bloggers online too. You’ll find her at june.olsen80@gmail.com. And now, on to June’s story about what vets need to know about the new G.I. Bill.

Rob Mark

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When veterans return home after their service, it is natural that they would want to begin the next chapter in their life by getting the education and training necessary to join the workforce. After all, having a solid career is a great way to support a family and find personal fulfillment.

Many therefore avail themselves of the G.I. Bill, which provides tuition assistance to returning veterans. Veterans rightly see the G.I. Bill as a way to receive the training they need to have a successful career. However, the GI Bill does not always cover all tuition in all situations, and as a result some veterans search for the least expensive college program available. While this may seem like a good idea, particularly in light of the skyrocketing cost of higher education, it pays to conduct diligent research comparing traditional and accredited colleges online.

Some veterans choose to enroll in a non-accredited program. While this might seem like a minor issue, it is in fact very important. Many employers and certification bodies don’t consider degrees obtained at non-accredited institutions valid. In practical terms, this means that, for example, if a veteran received a nursing degree from a non-accredited nursing program, many hospitals or statewide nursing certification boards would not recognize the degree. This could be a significant problem: after several years of training, the veteran would find him or herself with a degree that is essentially useless in advancing his or her career goals.

The reason non-accredited programs aren’t recognized is because, in order for a program to receive accreditation, it needs to meet certain standards in its training and teaching methods. In other words, a non-accredited program has not been vetted by any oversight agency (or it has been reviewed and deemed deficient). Without this necessary oversight, it is impossible to tell the value of the program. It is therefore reasonable that employers would not honor degrees from non-accredited colleges.

Unfortunately, however, non-accredited colleges are becoming increasingly popular. Often, they are for-profit colleges that take advantage of unsuspecting students and the federal funding (including the GI Bill) that they may receive, without providing a high-quality education in return. The military is becoming aware of this practice. It was recently reported in the Associated Press that veterans groups have suspended chapters in 40 for-profit universities because they were creating ways to lure veterans to their schools under the guise of being ‘veteran friendly,’ while providing inferior educational services.

Therefore, when veterans are looking for colleges to attend, it is important that they make sure that the colleges they are considering are properly accredited. This can be done by scrutinizing the colleges’ website and looking out for too-good-to-be-true promises, but the best way to do so is simply to learn which accrediting agencies are most important in each field, and to check if the program is accredited by that agency. This can be done by visiting the United States Department of Education’s website, which has accreditation information for all institutions in America. After all, a little care at the beginning in selecting an institution of higher learning can save a student a lot of misery later on.

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