Department of Defense Blocks Veteran Tuition Assistance for University of Phoenix

Posted By Eliana Osborn on November 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm
Department of Defense Blocks Veteran Tuition Assistance for University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix can no longer enroll new students using Department of Defense Tuition Assistance. This is one more roadblock for the school and the entire for-profit higher education industry.

The trouble began with scrutiny over how University of Phoenix (UOP) recruits service members, including some with brain injuries being signed up as students. With so many veterans returning from time in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years, there’s a lot of GI Bill money available to schools who target them. For-profit schools like the University of Phoenix have found much of their growth in veteran recruitment.

For-profit schools disproportionately received veterans’ funding

Extra scrutiny followed as the proportion of funds at UOP and Corinthian College, as well as others, was far higher than at traditional schools. An executive order issued in 2012 focused on principles of excellence in recruiting at military installations, transparent policies, ending freebie giveaways, and other student-focused steps. The order attempted to remove for-profit colleges from their front and center position on bases. Though, UOP continued to sponsor on-base activities, like concerts, with heavy advertising, trying to stay in the lead for where service member education benefits would flow.

The University of Phoenix received $345 million in GI Bill funding to educate about 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in 2014 and $1.2 billion since 2009, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. An investigation by Reveal News “of five large military bases found that the college paid the military nearly $1 million over the past five years sponsoring events there, ranging from briefings for soldiers newly stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado to an Easter egg hunt at Fort Hood in Texas.”

University of Phoenix on probation

These numbers certainly played a part in this recent decision by the Department of Defense regarding UOP. Students currently enrolled in programs at the school may continue for now with their veteran Tuition Assistance money, but no new students can sign up.

More than $20 million from the Tuition Assistance Program went to UOP in 2014. UOP is on probation with DoD over recruitment practices that still are not in line with the guidelines from 2012. Explaining this probation in a letter, the chief of DoD Voluntary Education cites investigations over deceptive marketing practices by the Federal Trade Commission and California State Attorney General.

UOP has already shrunk by half from its highest enrollment numbers. The Tuition Assistance Program is only one of the ways the school receives veteran dollars and is just a small portion of the total. But DoD scrutiny will not go away any time soon and could be one step toward losing other federal dollars.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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