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

Under the executive order, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Education Department's "Know Before You Owe" financial aid form will also be required to be made available to every college student participating in the Defense Department's tuition assistance program at nearly 2,000 schools. The form provides information about tuition and fees, estimated student loan debt upon graduation, graduation rates, among other information.

Libby Sander, reporter with The Chronicle of Higher Education, said the sheer amount of information targeted toward veterans pursuing higher education is a roadblock for those unfamiliar with the college selection process, especially the first generation of families to attend college.

"A lot of the veterans I spoke to were the first in their families to go to college and it's a big deal for them," Sander said. "They sometimes start the process with a feeling that they don't even know where to begin."

The Chronicle of Higher Education shows how a Google search for "GI Bill College" shows results that are mostly sales-oriented.

Sander explores the challenges and advantages of veterans in higher education in an ongoing series in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Out of Uniform.

Sander interviewed Paul Szoldra, a senior at the University of Tampa, will be the first of his family to graduate from college. During his eight years at the United States Marine Corps, Szoldra also obtained a degree from the for-profit University of Phoenix.

"We're always marketed to by the for-profits," Szoldra told ABC News.

Szoldra said programs from for-profits, often online, could be an ideal "bridge" before getting an undergraduate degree.

"On campus learning is much better for a transitioning veteran to interact with other veterans and interact with civilians," he said. "Getting out of the military is leaving a family and world for a foriegn one. Getting on campus and interacting with others is something you need to do right off the bat. If your first interaction with civilians is at a job interview, I think there's something wrong with that."

Szoldra decided to choose between the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida after he read a magazine article comparing those two colleges in his state, ultimately choosing the former.

"I figured if it was a smaller school than it would be a better education. That's about the extent of my knowledge at the time," he said. "Luckily U.T. has been a very great school and they have been very supportive of veterans."

Inspired by his brief college selection process, Szoldra created a website called, CollegeVeteran.com, through a business plan competition at the University of Tampa. The site, which he hopes to fully launch by the end of the year, is a free resource for military members and veterans about colleges and the college selection process.

Dakduk said the onus is on veterans to conduct research to find the best accredited schools that will help them with their career goals, instead of relying on arbitrary lists of the "best" schools for veterans.

"Research is going to be paramount," he said. "Do not take information from a third party. I don't care what their title is, whether it's the president of a university or a CEO."

Dakduk advises veterans to visit the Post-9/11 GI Bill's website from the Veteran Affairs Department, GIBill.VA.gov, to find out how much tuition assistance may be available to them and which schools offer supplementary assistance that may support a specific career.

Some academic programs may require remedial classes that veterans should plan for, such as calculus for engineering degrees.

Dakduk's eligibility of about four years of tuition assistance enables him to use his remaining months for graduate school, which he hopes to pursue in the future.

"Go straight to GIBill.va.gov and find out exactly what the benefits are," he said. "If you take information from someone out of a story or from a blog, you might be misled."

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