By Mary Beth Marklein, USA Today
A national advocacy group for student veterans, concerned that some for-profit colleges may be misrepresenting the organization to boost their image as military-friendly schools, has revoked chapter membership from 26 for-profit campuses and is reviewing compliance at its remaining 35 for-profit members.
Charters were revoked at schools where campus administrators were listed as primary contacts, which "defeats the fundamental spirit" of the peer-to-peer support group, says Michael Dakduk, executive director of the group, Student Veterans of America. It requires that chapters be run by and for students. The ousted groups can continue to operate, but won't be recognized by SVA, founded in 2008 to help veterans adjust to campus life and to succeed academically.
Dakduk said he noticed a pattern among for-profit colleges last year while processing membership renewals. Many for-profit schools were providing a school website as the chapter website and listing admissions directors or recruiters as the primary contact, raising concerns that the colleges could be "leveraging the SVA brand" as a recruitment tool aimed at veterans without offering resources to support them, Dakduk says.
Senate education committee hearings have raised similar concerns. A committee investigation last fall found that eight of the 10 biggest recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill education funds were going to for-profit colleges where student withdrawal rates after one year averaged nearly 60%.
Names of schools where charters were revoked are to be posted today on the group's website, studentveterans.org.
Schools can reapply. More than a dozen for-profit colleges responded to an alert sent earlier this month that their chapters were at risk of losing SVA recognition. Indiana-based ITT Educational Services, which operates 140 technical institutes, is working to resolve the problem on three of its campuses, says spokeswoman Lauren Littlefield. Its campus in Dunmore, Pa., was reinstated after submitting required membership information.
"We all have different experiences, but the one thing we share is our military service. It's a way of life and can't fully be realized unless you've lived it," says student Daniel Harnden, a U.S. Army veteran and a chapter officer at the ITT Technical Institute in Dunmore, Pa.
Charters were revoked at 14 of 109 colleges owned by Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corp. One of the company's schools, Brown Mackie College in Albuquerque, has been restored.
"We expect the rest will be soon," says the company's military liaison, John Bergman, a retired Marine lieutenant. "Our relationship with SVA is important to us."