Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Sullivan Grad, Vet Responds to Sen. Harkin's Attack on For-Profit Colleges

[This is a guest post by Brent Casey, president of Student Veterans of America-Chapter 227 and a graduate of Sullivan University in Louisville.]

When I read that Senator Tom Harkin’s plans to limit the role that career colleges and universities play in educating Americans, particularly our nation’s military veterans, I felt compelled to respond.

Senator Harkin apparently believes there is something wrong with the fact that career schools have an increasing number of students who have served our nation in the military. Today, career schools have a higher percentage of students with military service than any other branch of post-secondary education.

The reality is that returning veterans need institutions that provide greater flexibility for those balancing their obligations to families and work, as well as obtaining their education. Those who have served are oftentimes very focused on receiving particular degrees that lead to careers in targeted areas.

When I concluded my service in the military, a career school provided me the opportunity and flexibility I needed to get an education and transition successfully. I was suffering from severe PTSD and could not bear to think about being in a classroom of 100-150 students, nor did I have the patience to study biology in a path to a Masters degree in business. I would not have been able to get a diploma at a four-year school or even community college, while simultaneously keeping a job and attending to my family. Had it not been for a career college/university such as Sullivan University, I would not have been able to enjoy the flexibility with regard to scheduling, small classes and dealing with my personal PTSD issues on my terms.

As a result, today, with thanks to Sullivan University, I have graduated with an associate’s degree in business, a bachelor’s degree in business and management, and a Master’s degree in business, all with honors. I am currently a doctoral candidate studying strategic management and I am co-founder and president of Student Veterans of America-Chapter 227 at Sullivan University.

If Senator Harkin pursues what he calls “remedial actions,” I worry that others who leave the military will be unable to achieve their goals. It all starts with real options concerning educational opportunities, and while well-intentioned, any efforts to limit choices hurt not help.

In today’s economy, the government should not limit opportunities in education, instead expand them. Career colleges and universities play a critical role in making sure our veterans are able to transition into the civilian workforce.

My advice as someone who has served is for Senator Harkin to reconsider his words and actions, which will only end up hurting veterans as opposed to helping them. I believe a man who is good enough to serve his country should be good enough to make his own decision about where he wants to attend college. Our veterans have earned that right and Congress should not be limiting our options.

Brent Casey is president of Student Veterans of America-Chapter 227 and graduate of Sullivan University.

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