As Congress gets ready to leave Washington until the Lame Duck session, on top of the agenda for both Capitol Hill and the White House will be what our options are to deal with the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It appears that the United States is going to take a more aggressive stance with ISIS and try to generate support for our military efforts from nations around the globe. Sadly, this situation is also a stark reminder of the heavy burden being shouldered by the men and women serving this nation in uniform.


Yet another burden on our military is what they do once they leave the armed forces.  Despite the ISIS situation, the president has made it clear that it is part of his long-term agenda to continue the drawdown of our military engagements with Iraq and Afghanistan.  This means that thousands of active duty men and women are going to be leaving the service and entering the public sector job market.

As these individuals transition into civilian life, they will most certainly need to expand on their current skills or develop new ones in order to find employment. For many, that means going to college.

For-profit colleges, like Phoenix and DeVry, are very popular with veterans and active duty individuals.  But, while some for-profit schools do a very good job, others do not.  They take advantage of veterans and active duty service members by leaving them with a worthless degree or no degree at all. Even worse, when the process is over, these students have used all their available benefits.

I believe, as lawmakers, military brass, and regulators grapple with how to deal with for-profit institutions, their goal should also include ensuring that current military and veterans have access to the good for-profit schools while making it harder for the bad ones to operate.  What concerns me is that in order to eliminate the bad players, little effort is being made to preserve the good for-profit schools.

Some critics of for-profit schools dislike all of them.  But that is misguided and elitist thinking. In reality, for-profit schools like American Military University (AMU) do a very good job.

Consider these facts: US News and World Report ranks AMU’s online bachelor’s degree 34th best in the nation.  A Defense Department website that rates different schools for prospective military students, says AMU’s loan default rates are lower than the national average.  According to AMU’s website, 45 percent of their students were referred by other students.  And how much does AMU cost these students?  The school asserts that combined tuition, fees, and books are approximately 20 percent less for undergraduate and 33 percent less for graduate students than the average published in-state cost at a public university.

Clearly, AMU stands in stark contrast to a school like Corinthian, which was recently shut down by the Department of Education because – among other transgressions -- the school intentionally mislead students about their chances of finding a job after graduation.

Despite the protestations of the critics of all for-profits, military students and veterans understand the benefits of the good schools. Especially their efforts to focus on curriculum that expand on the training they received in the service, like logistics and security. Traditional four-year universities or even most community colleges do not offer degrees in those subjects.

Another reason military students attend for-profits is simply because they are still serving and don’t have the time to attend classes. Since many for-profits offer online degrees, active duty service members can study and take classes in their free time.  Many even have or are close to getting a degree by the time they leave military service.

The stark reality is that veterans who enlisted since the September 11th attacks on the United States have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the nation.  This sad fact means that our leaders in Washington have a responsibility to put aside their own biases against for-profit colleges and take steps to ensure that while the bad schools are eliminated, the good for-profits, like AMU, remain viable options.

Reyes served in Congress from 1997 to 2013.