No Out-of-State Online Programs Train Kansas Teachers
Become a Kansas Teacher Through an All Online Program! That is what the pop-up on my computer said. So I clicked on the ad and entered my phone number.
My phone soon rang. "Are you a veteran?" was the first question. I told her I wasn’t. She continued: "Are you interested in our online teacher program?" I could honestly answer "You bet I am!"—although with a different meaning than she heard. With my incessant questioning on whether I could be "certified" [their term] to be a Kansas teacher, she put me through to the next level. [In Kansas, teachers are "licensed," not certified.]
That next person was a career counselor who is there to close the deal and get me enrolled. His first question was again to check if I might be a veteran or in any way eligible for federal funding. Even though I repeated "no," he figured that if I taught in a high need area, there could be federal funds to underwrite my tuition.
Twice I asked if this online program would qualify me to be a Kansas teacher. Twice he asserted yes. I could even suggest schools where I wanted to student teach in Kansas. Their operation is several states away and they purport to train teachers in 48 states including Kansas. I would be joining 40,000 of their online students, half of whom are pursuing education training.
But this "school" is not accredited to offer any teacher programs in Kansas. And an unsuspecting student will not know that.
I notified the appropriate folks at the Kansas Department of Education. In addition, I filed an online complaint with the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Education. And I e-mailed the details to U.S. Senator Harkin’s office; he heads a Senate committee that is investigating for-profits.
The for-profit’s focus on whether I was a veteran centers on provisions in the 2008 update to the GI Bill. In its first year, these mostly online for-profits received 36 percent of the $1.75-billion in veteran’s benefits paid by the Veterans Affairs Department. But they enroll fewer than 10 percent of U.S. students. Their lobbyists contend for-profits are more dedicated to educating service members and veterans. However, false advertising is hardly "dedication."
The Senate committee found some for-profits exceed the 90/10 rule of the Higher Education Act that limits a school to not more than 90% federal student aid. If a college offers programs that are worthwhile, at least ten percent of its funding should come from students willing to pay for it. According to a March 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education report, "twenty for-profit companies received a combined $521.1-million in veterans and Defense Department benefits in 2010."
Unfortunately, the Washington gridlock and extreme partisan atmosphere has polarized our politicians. Many Republicans seem to be saying that since the investigation is being led by a Democrat Senator, they will defend the online for-profits. We cannot afford to waste a half-billion dollars that should go to bonafide programs. This investigation should have the support of both parties.
In "For-profit Schools Devour GI Bill Dollars"in the December 2011 American Legion Magazine, the Legion is behind cracking down on predatory for-profit schools "that, in effect, rob veterans of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits." They cite that "the average cost to the government per veteran is $4,874 a year at a public school vs. $10,875 at a for-profit school." And "by the time student vets realize they’ve been victimized, much of their GI Bill benefit can be exhausted."
Meanwhile, if you see an ad promoting out-of-state online programs for preparing Kansas teachers, don’t become a victim. No out-of-state program is approved for Kansas teacher licensure.
Report them to state and federal officials. It is your tax dollars being wasted.