U.S. Veterans Targeted By Marketers in College Selection Process

PHOTO: Student Veterans of America Executive Director Michael Dakduk, a former Marine, said he was able to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill only after extensive research.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers financial support for veterans' education, leading some marketers to target vets with deceptive advertising about college opportunities and President Obama to sign an executive order on Friday to curb those abuses.

The bill was an enormous boost to Michael Dakduk, who served in the Marine Corps and is now executive director of Student Veterans of America, an organization whose mission is to provide vets in higher education and following graduation with resources and support.

Dakduk, who left active duty in 2008, said he would not have been able to pursue his bachelor's degree full-time at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"I had such a substantial increase in benefits, I could focus solely on studies," Dakduk said.

The Las Vegas-native had previously attended community college while working part-time, with assistance from the Montgomery GI Bill. That bill provides a monthly education benefit to active duty military members who pay $100 a month for the financial assistance.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which became effective in August 2009 mainly for military members with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 20, 2001, provided "unprecedented access to virtually any university in our country and overseas," said Dakduk, driving some schools into targeting veterans and their federal tuition assistance.

Colleges have collected more than $4.4 billion under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in a story about competition among colleges to lure veterans.

"I liken it to a full-ride scholarship for each student veteran," he said. Dakduk added that the latest GI Bill has opened the doors of higher education to veterans of all economic classes, as the original GI-Bill did after World War II.

Reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions toward service members and veterans, particularly by for-profit career colleges, moved President Obama to sign the executive order, which requires colleges to provide more information to veterans such as the likelihood of military members completing a school's programs prior to enrolling.

On Thursday, the Student Veterans of America revoked the organization's charters at 26 for-profit institutions after finding that those school groups were not led by student veterans. All 445 chapters of the Student Veterans of America are led by student veterans.

While many for-profit educational institutions offer flexible options for military members and members, Dakdak said the most recent annual review of school chapters found a pattern of issues at certain for-profit schools.

"That's not what SVA is about," he said. "It's a peer-to-peer student network led by student veterans."

The transition from a military to civilian lifestyle could create a culture shock for many veterans, especially on an academic campus. That's why speaking to a fellow veteran before enrolling in a school is so important.

"Military life is very rigid," he said. "Academic campuses promote free expression and communicating with individuals and people regardless of condition or title, which would not happen traditionally in the military."

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