Military Trends in Online College
Military students and veterans are significantly more likely to attend online colleges to accommodate their unique lifestyles, and as a stepping stone to transition back into civilian life. Unfortunately, some for-profits colleges target these specific students for the military benefits they are afforded such as the New GI Bill. The army identifies one trend in the online college space to be the offering of MOOC's and partnerships by leading universities and branches of the military to provide relevant curriculum to service members. Information regarding these trends in the online space as they relate to service members and veterans is provided below.
- Military students are significantly more likely than nonmilitary peers to attend college online, 18% of military students attend school online compared to non-military students. This gap is even more significant between military graduate students and nonmilitary graduate students with rates of online attendance of 41% versus 19%, respectively.
- Active duty undergraduates (54%) were the most likely group of all military connected peers to take all of their classes online.
- The trend of higher online attendance by military students is driven by the needs of military personnel to balance their duties, personal life and educational aspirations. Military students are able to attend school regardless of potential deployments and changing military assignments.
- The skills and traits military students develop while serving also serve to be valuable and necessary traits to be successful in online school. Some of these traits include "discipline, goal-orientation, determination, and the capacity for self-regulation", and these virtues make them more likely than traditional students to demand and thrive in online colleges.
- Resources such as the GI Bill and other benefits and scholarships for military personnel and veterans also drives more military personnel to pursue higher education, some of these resources such as the GI Bill also apply to spouses and dependents and can allow them to pursue higher education online even when stationed abroad.
- The GI Bill was recently updated so military service members can receive the standard living stipend for online learning full-time. This has further driven the surge of military members entering the online college market.
- The growth in online attendance by military personnel is also attributed to the number of soldiers that suffer from PTSD. These students find online colleges to be a "stepping stone back to civilian life" without overwhelming them with the stresses of being on campus.
- Some colleges such as Syracuse University design and tailor curriculum for military students.
- Veteran's Education Success, VES, provides several reports of student veteran and service member complaints regarding misconduct and illegal practices conducted by predatory online colleges in the marketplace. Some of these complaints were waged against Kaplan, Ashford University, and Trident International University.
- Predatory schools, both online and traditional, have been increasingly targeting veteran and military students because of their benefits such as the New GI Bill (Post-9/11 GI Bill). Veterans have been lobbying to change legislation that they describe as incentivizing for-profit colleges to "aggressively market to veterans to stay afloat".
- Legislation has a 90/10 rule that caps the amount of federal aid a college can receive at 90%, and these predatory colleges target military service members and veterans as their benefits were not considered to be part of the 90%.
- Defenders of for-profit colleges and universities for veterans state that the programs they offer are often tailored for adult learners like military personnel and have strong online offerings, flexible scheduling, and "provide career-minded programming in areas popular with veterans".
- Trident International University is stated to not only have targeted veteran and military students but also the survivors of military service members that were killed while on active duty since 9/11 by turning an event for the children into a recruitment opportunity and touting the advantages of a fully online education to them. In 2017, 64% of all enrolled students were either service members or veterans.
- Ashford University, another fully online university, is stated to have even worse outcomes than Trident.
Military Partnerships and Offerings
- Leading online colleges and universities are participating in an increasing number of partnerships with branches of the military to provide tailored curriculum and support for online military students. A list of the top rated online universities for active duty members reveals they offer college courses specifically for service members by focusing on relevant curriculum such as homeland security, and they provide military-focused student clubs and groups and other support personnel.
- Colleges and universities in the online space are increasingly offering online educational and support tools for service members and veterans. The army provides a recent trend in the online college space to be Massive Online College Courses (MOOC's) offered by leading universities and colleges throughout the US and around the world.
- The University of Southern Mississippi is one of the top universities that provides over 45 online degree and certificate programs for veterans, service members and their dependents. The university's Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families is also available for its online service members and veteran students, and it also has a Military/Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) degree.
- Webster University works closely with the DoD to provide degree programs for active duty, vets, and their dependents. The university is also partnered with the Community College of the Air Force.
- David Lawrence, a veterans service specialist at the California Community College System points out that the state's 2017-18 budget included funding for veteran resource centers on college campuses for the first time, and with that the system added a wholly online school to boost support for veterans.
- In addition, the schools have been making the transfer of military credits and experience easier and participating in military cooperative degree programs.
- The MOOC Coursera has a new partnership with the Department of Veteran Affairs that will provide a certificate to every US veteran to improve employability in high-demand fields and will launch 20 Veteran-facilitated Learning Hubs to increase online accessibility and support.