Nearly half of all taxpayer money spent on tuition assistance for active-duty troops goes to for-profit schools, a senator said Feb. 23.
Of the $563 million the Pentagon spent on voluntary education programs last year, about $280 million went to for-profit schools, mostly those that offer classes online, according to a report from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Harkin has criticized for-profit schools for years, saying many of them target military students with aggressive recruiting tactics and offer degrees with limited real-world value.
"I hope that the Defense Department will do more to ensure service members are using their one-time education benefits at colleges that provide them with a quality education and the tools they need to succeed," said Harkin in a statement Thursday.
For-profit schools say their online programs fill a vital role in the academic world and are well suited for troops who move and deploy frequently.
The Defense Department recently drew up new oversight rules for schools receiving tuition assistance. Implementation of those rules was delayed after Harkin and 51 other senators urged the Defense Department to improve the agreement. Some schools claimed the new rules, currently slated to take effect in April, would violate their academic freedom.
Harkin, chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued a similar report last fall about schools that receive the most Post-9/11 GI Bill money. Eight of the top 10 schools are for-profit intuitions rather than traditional state-run or non-profit colleges.
The Pentagon's tuition assistance costs have more than doubled since 2001.