By Jim Sweizer
How many times have you gone into a store with a great coupon deal only to find that the item you wanted to purchase is one of many “exclusions” listed in the fine print?
The same thing can happen when shopping for colleges. Keeping this scenario in mind, here are some of the questionable “come-ons” you should be aware of when looking for the college that’s right for you.
What they tell you: “Complete your degree in X months!”
What they’re not saying: “Applies to full-time students only.”
Fact: A service member using tuition assistance benefits for undergraduate courses enrolls in approximately three courses or nine semester hours a year. In fact, an airman enrolled in a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) associates program takes nine years to complete all degree requirements.* Can a motivated military student working 10-16 hours a day really complete their degree requirements quicker by enrolling full time? Practically speaking, those who can are in the minority and less likely to have tuition assistance approved for a full-time course load.
What they tell you: “50%, 60%, or 70% discount for military members”
What they’re not saying: No mention of existing tuition rates
Fact: Many schools serving the military community provide a discount to military members using tuition assistance benefits by capping their tuition at the $250 semester threshold imposed by the Department of Defense. It is prudent for a military student to investigate what the published tuition rates are for a school before being enticed to enroll by what appears to be a discounted rate. Any potential tuition discount is ultimately meaningless if the final costs exceed the DoD cap and cause a military student to incur additional, unplanned, out-of-pocket expenses.
What they tell you: “Top- Ranked” or “Top 10” military-friendly school”
What they’re not sating: Source of the ranking
Fact: There are many “military-friendly school” lists permeating higher education advertising outlets these days. Some publishers cleverly cloak their lists as “guides,” while others actually rank- order schools – at least those that choose to participate. Schools that subsequently use these rankings in their ads should provide a verifiable source. Is the ranking given by a reputable magazine or does it emanate from a “play-to-pay” website that creates a list based solely on those schools purchasing an ad or sponsorship? Another thing to consider is that rankings are sometimes based on the submission of a survey which some schools choose not to complete due to a methodology which may be at odds with their admissions policy, program or student support structure, or other reasons. Does their absence mean they are not, “military-friendly”? Possibly. But there’s usually more than meets the eye in such cases.
A once popular clothing store chain in the Northeast used a terrific slogan to sell their products, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” I am a big fan of military students being educated consumers and the only way this will happen is through research. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Thoroughly research the websites of schools that interest you and contact an admissions representative if you have questions. Knowing the facts will help you make an informed decision when selecting a school that meets your needs.