Ohio is home to one of the country’s largest military veteran populations. I’ve had the honor of working with veterans as they transition back into civilian life and honor the legacies of our fallen soldiers through my work with the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial.
Through first-hand experience, I know Ohio is committed to ensuring there is a place for veterans in the current and future workforce. And a key part of that equation is education since many veterans will choose to go back to school in order to compete for jobs.
One way to support our workforce, and veterans, now and for years to come is to strengthen our nation’s higher education system. It’s important to cultivate a workforce that can immediately step into the top jobs our companies need to fill with innovative thinkers and skilled laborers.
And, for veterans to succeed on their higher education journey, not only do they have to put in the work, but they also need the support of the school where they have entrusted their education.
Currently, though, veterans lack access to crucial information that would allow them to do an apples-to-apples comparison of programs, gauging a school’s performance to decide if it is the best fit for their long-term career aspirations.
Without seeing metrics like graduation rates, employment outcomes and debt-to-income ratios, there is no uniform way of knowing how institutions support students, including veterans, through their degree programs.
Ohio is home to 284 postsecondary institutions, but since there are no mandatory reporting or performance standards, some are taking advantage of students, leaving them without a degree and with debt they have no way to pay down.
And with many veterans using the GI Bill benefit, we need to ensure that the funds earned as part of their military service are not being taken advantage of by predatory institutions.
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education found that of the Ohio schools currently providing data, over one-third graduate less than half of the students who enrolled in the past eight years. On top of that, over one-third of the schools in our state leave student borrowers with unmanageable debt, struggling to make payments that just cover the loan interest even five years after they’ve left school.
We can do more to ensure our veterans are getting the most out of their degree. That is why we need more transparency and accountability measures in place to strengthen national standards among our higher education system.
Veterans deserve this information, especially after serving our country selflessly and working hard to ultimately gain admission after their service. And, Ohioans think so, too. An overwhelming majority believe that postsecondary institutions need a level of accountability when it comes to the return on investment they are actually providing to students.
There is a proposed solution in place that lays the groundwork for a more accountable postsecondary system — the College Transparency Act. Not only does this legislation create a simple, concise reporting framework for colleges, universities and technical and vocational programs across the country, it makes that information publicly available to military veterans, other students, families and the wider population.
Neal Kruse is president of the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury.