We’re Celebrating 15 Years!

Today is a special one at Victory Media.

Fifteen years ago, Victory Media’s co-founders Chris Hale, Rich McCormack and Scotty Shaw celebrated the first day working at a new company—their own. Their mission was simple: create vital, civilian-produced resources for the 250K+ people leaving the military each year, at no cost to service members or taxpayers. In doing so, they introduced these candidates to civilian employment, entrepreneurship and education opportunities. Where companies and schools didn’t recruit from the military, Chris, Rich and Scotty showed them why they should.

Today, we celebrate a rich, 15-year history of creating opportunity and advocacy for our veterans, military spouses, service members and now high school students looking to take that “next step.” What started as an idea in “Suite B” (“B” for the basement in Chris’ house!) has become a thriving, growing business. We couldn’t be more proud of our employees, and thank our clients and business associates who have supported us along the way doing better for veterans and young professionals looking to make a difference in their own lives and careers—and ours.

We can’t wait to see what the next 15 years will bring… and show the world what we can do!

Meet the Winners of the 2017 Military Friendly® Awards

Military Friendly® Awards

Last month we announced our 2017 Military Friendly® Employers and Schools, and today we’re proud to recognize the best of the best with special awards. New this year, Military Friendly® Awards showcase the most powerful and effective programs of all Military Friendly® institutions.

Based on the successful completion of the Military Friendly® survey, more than 200 employers and 1,200 post-secondary schools were designated as “Military Friendly®”. Of these recipients, 154 employers and 541 schools have been recognized as Top 10, Gold, Silver, or Bronze award winners for excellence in different categories (annual revenue for employers and institution type for schools).

Who made the top of the list for 2017?

#1 Military Friendly® Employer: Marsh & McLennan Companies

Peter Beshar (EVP, General Counsel, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Chris Hale (VM CEO), Laurie Ledford (Chief HR Officer, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Dan Glaser (CEO, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Julio Poralatin (CEO, Mercer)

From left: Peter Beshar (EVP, General Counsel, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Chris Hale (VM CEO), Laurie Ledford (Chief HR Officer, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Dan Glaser (CEO, Marsh & McLennan Companies), Julio Poralatin (CEO, Mercer)

Marsh & McLennan Companies, a leading professional services firm, is our #1 Overall Military Friendly® Employer for 2017.

– View Marsh & McLennan’s Profile –

Marsh & McLennan Company’s veteran talent initiative casts a wide net to identify veteran candidates for a range of roles. Their ‘Silver Medalist’ program identifies impressive military veteran candidates who did not receive a job offer in their initial round of interviews and works with them to develop their interviewing skills. The company works closely with these candidates to identify and place them in other positions in one of their operating companies.

During our site audit of top Military Friendly® Employers, it was immediately clear that Marsh & McLennan Companies’ program was helmed by knowledgeable, capable and passionate leaders. More important was the reality that theirs was not a program set on an island; it was a program set in motion by their President and CEO Dan Glaser, a program embraced across every division of the organization. This is what authentic commitment looks like, and this commitment is further evidenced in the execution and corporate-wide embrace of an underlying ethos that skills and experience gained in military service matters.

Marsh & McLennan Companies’ program is well-tracked, deeply integrated, has meaningful goals, consistent measurements and is clearly setting the pace with innovations that truly benefit veterans, whether they are candidates or employees, and whether they are selected for a position with the company or not. The company proves that authenticity rises to the top.

#1 Military Friendly® School: City College of New York

From left: Chris Hale; Alexandra Casey, communications director for New York State Asssembly 34th District, Office of Assemblymen Michael DenDekker (chair for the New York State Assembly for Veterans Affairs); Juan Reina, VP for Student Affairs at City College; Christopher Gorman, director of Veterans Affairs; Joel Mentor, Treasurer of the Board - Manhattan Community Board 9 and Chair of Landmarks/Parks Committee; Jordan David Garrick, a Veteran and economics major at City College. Middle: Chris Rosa – interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs, CUNY

From left: Chris Hale; Alexandra Casey, communications director for New York State Asssembly 34th District, Office of Assemblymen Michael DenDekker (chair for the New York State Assembly for Veterans Affairs); Juan Reina, VP for Student Affairs at City College; Christopher Gorman, director of Veterans Affairs; Joel Mentor, Treasurer of the Board – Manhattan Community Board 9 and Chair of Landmarks/Parks Committee; Jordan David Garrick, a Veteran and economics major at City College. Middle: Chris Rosa – interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs, CUNY

The City College of New York is our #1 Military Friendly® School for 2017 in the Public Universities category.

– View CCNY’s Profile –

The school’s entire veterans’ program was originally conceptualized by veterans for veterans, which makes it distinct. The program also demonstrates the great organizational and programmatic capacity that veterans possess, and why it is so vital that colleges make every effort to embrace them.

Commitment certainly begins with the head of any campus-based veterans program, but our Military Friendly® schools must demonstrate that they go beyond a single resource, team or dedicated space. The very best Military Friendly® Schools have developed a culture that embraces and integrates military students through collaboration across all campus departments and services.

What was clear in CCNY’s performance in our survey and in our on-site audit is that the school’s program builds around a solid set of outcomes that are measured, tracked and analyzed to determine what efforts and what investments have the greatest impact on student success.

See All of the 2017 Award Winners

The names of awardees are published online at militaryfriendly.com and will be printed in the December issue of G.I. Jobs® and the annual Guide to Military Friendly® Schools. Read the official press release, and be sure to check out the 2017 Military Friendly® Employers and 2017 Military Friendly® Schools who made our list.

How do you define a “Military Friendly School”?

In recent years, the concept of “bad actor” schools has taken center stage in the debate surrounding military and veteran education outcomes, largely becoming synonymous with “for-profit college.” With the failings of ITT and other schools before it and sure to come after, we understand the concern of students and parents, veterans and non-veterans alike. Yet, in all of the discussions, regulations and executive branch actions designed to call out and curb bad behavior no single definition exists of what “bad actor” means. The result: confusion among service members, veterans and their families, as well as for higher education institutions.

That’s why this year we’ve evolved our Military Friendly® Schools benchmarks and ratings—and will publish our 2017 list of colleges, universities and trade schools—based on a enhanced, standard measure for evaluating institutions on the outcomes they provide for military students.

How it will work

The Military Friendly® School scoring methodology will be applied to more than 8,800 institutions that accept federal education benefits for veterans, across the spectrum of degree programs and institution types. Our 2017 list will identify those schools meeting the Military Friendly® standard, plus, new for this year, institutions eligible for the Military Friendly® designation based on public data, but that did not validate their data through the survey.

We consider three data sources for determining the Military Friendly® designation: publicly available data about the institution; proprietary Military Friendly® survey data from our most recent survey cycle; and personal opinion data from student veterans.

Clearer vision of Military Friendly SchoolsDefining Military Friendly® Schools

To be designated as a 2017 Military Friendly® School, institutions must have completed the survey to verify that their institution’s accreditation and federal status are in good standing, and that they meet at least three of six of the “50/20” benchmarks. These benchmarks measure an institution’s commitment to be “better for veterans” in meaningful outcome measures: graduation rate, retention rate, loan default rate, and job placement rate.

“50/20” Thresholds for Military Friendly® Schools

Schools must meet at least three of the six.

  1. Retention Rate in Year 1All Students Rate is above 50%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is above the All Students %.
  2. Retention Rate in Year 2All Students Rate is above 50%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is above the All Students %.
  3. Graduation RateAll Students Rate is above 50%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is above the All Students %.
  4. Job Placement Rate–All Students Rate is above 50%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is above the All Students %.
  5. Loan Repayment Rate–All Students Rate is above 50%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is above the All Students %.
  6. Loan Default Rate–All Students Rate is below 20%, or Veteran Students Rate (%) is below the All Students %.

Simpler. Clearer. Better for Veterans.

These measures, along with a more collaborative effort among veteran service organizations, government agencies, corporations, employers, higher education institutions and non-profit organizations, will provide military students with a clear and more concise picture of a college’s performance relevant to them. It will also help us ensure that only those institutions doing better for veterans receive the Military Friendly® School designation.

I think everyone can agree on that.

The 2017 Military Friendly® Schools list will be released this November. More information can be found at militaryfriendly.com.

Top 10 Tips for Engaging Military Students

gi_jobs_tavia-126Today’s colleges are faced with the challenge of attracting and engaging students who are primed for success. Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of Active Duty, National Guard and Armed Forces Reserve service members have benefited from the Post-9/11 GI Bill in order to earn a degree or certificate, with the numbers increasing dramatically every year. Schools that invest in quantifiable military student resources, training and programs are the ones that will succeed in attracting transitioning military students who thrive not just on campus, but in the workplace and civilian life.

We talked with Jolene Jefferies, our VP of Training and Development at Military Friendly®, to learn how admissions professionals can reach and support this talented and driven pool of students and leaders. Here are her…

Top 10 Tips for Engaging Talented Military Students

1) Build solid relationships with transitioning military students from the beginning. The most successful Military Friendly® Schools proactively reach out to prospective students to help educate them about their services, resources and reasons for attending school. These institutions also provide dedicated services for veterans, military spouses and their families—and make them available right from the start.

2) Design campaigns that take advantage of a wide range of strategies that reach prospective military students. The key is to find the right students and connect with them in the way that most resonates. Developing a comprehensive, integrated marketing campaign incorporating traditional, digital and social media resources is the way to make that happen.

3) Recognize the importance of military spouses. The more than 1.1 million military spouses are truly the “force behind the force.” Develop policies and programs geared towards military spouses and their families to ensure retention, graduation and employment after school.

4) Establish and document processes that track military students through their college career. Report results regularly, and use them to inform future decisions and improvements. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, too, to inspire a deeper commitment to our nation’s heroes.

5) Create a meaningful experience for military students starting with orientation. Provide well-thought-out programs and events that showcase military/veteran-specific resources and, importantly, how and when to use them. Plus, involve military alumni as mentors up front. There’s often nothing more valuable than connecting with someone who has walked a similar path and has been successful in transitioning to school.

6) Participate in a third-party survey to assess how well you support the military community, and benchmark where you rate against other educational institutions. Victory Media’s adjudicated annual Military Friendly® Schools survey is free for schools, with results delivered in print and online to military installations and transition classes worldwide, reaching nearly every transitioning service member and their instructors.

7) Train and include employees and faculty. It’s vital to show staff how the skills and job experiences military students have gained through their service can fit into the school’s programs and, eventually, into a satisfying civilian career. Veterans Offices should build partnerships with other departments, faculty and community organizations to design meaningful programs for student veterans and their colleagues.

8) Likewise, be creative with developing internal partnerships. Form partnerships with other departments and colleagues beyond the obvious. For example, one Military Friendly® School enlisted the Department of Social Work faculty and students to survey whether or not the institution was meeting the needs of its military student population.

9) Form a Veteran Services Advisory Board or Task Force that meets regularly to bring together college personnel, alumni and students to plan together, share updates and raise awareness about the accomplishments of student veterans and military spouses. The group can also develop procedures for identifying students having difficulty with their coursework, so tutoring and other forms of assistance can be offered before students fall too far behind.

10) Drive and support community initiatives—and encourage students to network. Working with local veteran and military service organizations, as well as local installations, forges a better understanding of the current and emerging issues for military students and their families. And, bridging the gap between classroom learning and positive outcomes for military students not only boosts economic opportunity for the individual, it can power an entire community.

For more on these “top 10” tips for school admissions, veteran and career professionals, download our free white paper.

ITT Tech: This Unmitigated Disaster for Student Veterans Will Get Worse.

This article was first published by Daniel Nichols as a Pulse post on LinkedIn. View the original post here.

student veteran

VA does not have the legal authority to restore any GI Bill benefits you have used to attend ITT, even if you are not finished with the classes this term. You are, however, free to pursue your education goals at another school or training facility.[http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/news.asp]

This somber phrase issued in light of the closure of ITT campuses across the country is stark evidence of the lack of coordination between executive and legislative branches of government and the lack of planning. Government investigations into the practices of primarily for-profit educational institutions is not new … this has been a very long process – a decade long war of lobbyist power on both sides. It is the government vs. free enterprise on a massive scale. The result? Institutions are shut down … and veterans are shut out.

Yes, it sounds crazy – surely these closings are a surprise to everyone?! If that’s where you are, let me again quote the VA statement in response to the Corinthian Colleges closure in April 30, 2015, “Unfortunately, there are no provisions in the law that would allow VA to restore entitlement that has been used attending one of the schools.”

If you’re interested in a deeper dig into the background of this decade long war for education I’ve got a very long, very dry whitepaper you can find and download at betterforveterans.org.

The worst is yet to come

Unfortunately, I don’t believe this is the worst of it by any means for veterans – I believe the long-term impact on the value of diplomas earned by veterans at these institutions will directly affect the employability of veterans – especially in relation to professional licensure and credentialing.

Before I go there – I thought I’d share some of my own recent research findings on the topic – as I was hopeful that somewhere, someone in government was keeping student veterans in mind. Here’s what I found in FAQ format. [and my apologies that this is not my normal narrative style]

Why can’t the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) help?

I assume that most people don’t know how the approval process works for eligibility to receive VA educational benefits – in brief, VA benefit eligibility at the institutional level is determined by “State Approving Agencies.” As is the case with all general operating licenses for educational institutions, each state is responsible for ensuring that approved institutions and establishments meet and maintain acceptable standards so that eligible persons who attend may receive educational assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA doesn’t approve schools – states do.

No legal authority exists for the VA to re-establish GI Bill eligibility. If you burned your GI Bill in an institution that has been shut down … you may be able to discharge outstanding student loans – but you will not get your GI Bill dollars back.

Is Congress taking any action at all?

The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) is to my understanding working on a legislative fix that would allow those who have used the GI Bill already to potentially regain their lost eligibility – but the likelihood of such a bill passing both houses is slim to none. The Senate has a fix embedded in a huge omnibus bill – highlighted as the “Veterans First Act” – but again, it is not likely that any Bill in that form will go anywhere.

It’s pretty easy to identify bad actors in government data, isn’t it?

Government data on educational institutions is of poor quality. Only about 20% of schools (out of 8,800+) provide enough information to adequately judge veteran-specific outcomes. College Factual has a list of veteran schools numbering around 1400 – which roughly corresponds to the actual completed data set on veteran outcomes provided through iPEDS [http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/] – and as such is a good measure of how essentially meaningless this set of data is. And if you are hoping for a DoD or VA list to provide appropriate guidance – I’ve found that the only statistically significant predictor (.01) of veteran graduation, job placement and retention rates is the “completeness” of an institution’s participation in 12+ federal programs/initiatives. And it is a NEGATIVE correlation…. Meaning those institutions that are cleared or involved or participating in all government programs have worse outcomes.

Yes, but, don’t the college scorecard, the VA GI Bill and DoD MOU search tools identify schools veterans should avoid?

No … they do not. The VA has flagged warnings on school profiles within their GI Bill comparison tool – but a flag doesn’t mean “not eligible” and the “flags” are not very intuitive; “heightened financial cash monitoring” can mean a lot of things but nothing clear to a student. The DoD’s list of MOU approved institutions has unfortunately not been updated since 2014. The DoD MOU applies only to organizations participating in their tuition assistance program, which operates much like any corporate tuition benefit program. In either case – a flag doesn’t mean the school is not eligible. In fact, Corinthian Colleges were approved and still accredited as was ITT the day of their closure (as of Sep 7 – ITT Tech still appears on both instruments).

The vast majority of licenses and credentials require that an applicant or candidate hold a degree granted by an accredited institution.

Who do you think is next?

I’m not deeply embedded in the Washington scene – so I have no inside track … but I do have access to data, and data tells a story on it’s own. Given the history, given the stakes, given the blog and media wars and given the data I would suggest the following list as not only the next targets, but likely the order in which they will fall. I do want to be clear (as I’m sure I’ll receive plenty of hate mail and demands to take this list down) – I’m not saying this is my judgement about their education or outcomes in any way – I’m suggesting that this is a best guess on who follows Corinthian and ITT. [Also – do not blame me If this list shows up in Vegas]

  • DEVRY UNIVERSITY ONLINE
  • ARGOSY UNIVERSITY
  • ASHFORD UNIVERSITY
  • STRAYER UNIVERSITY
  • BROWN MACKIE COLLEGE
  • FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
  • ASHFORD UNIVERSITY
  • LONE STAR COLLEGE SYSTEM
  • CAPELLA UNIVERSITY
  • VIRGINIA COLLEGE
  • NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
  • THE ART INSTITUTE OF PITTSBURGH
  • UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
  • SOUTH UNIVERSITY
  • CENTRAL TEXAS COLLEGE
  • GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
  • LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
  • AMERICAN BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY UNIVERSITY
  • AMERICAN PUBLIC UNIVERSITY SYSTEM

If you represent a school on this list – again – I’m not calling you out, I’m also probably not telling you anything of which you are not aware. Nevertheless – connect with me and I can walk you through the data.

You said it will get worse … how so?

The vast majority – I would say all, but I don’t like to be that definitive – the vast majority of licenses and credentials require that an applicant or candidate hold a degree granted by an accredited institution. Since training received by the Department of Defense is not accredited, transitioning service members are often on the hook to find an accredited civilian institution to provide them with the accredited training required for certification. This immediately places service members in a bind as they often use their GI Bill to re-train on skills they have already long mastered. Add to this mix the fact that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) is awaiting a final determination on its status as an institutional accrediting body.

ACICS provides primary accreditation for around 800 member institutions (ITT Tech was one – you can find others here: http://personify.acics.org/Default.aspx?TabId=204) and represent a current veteran student enrollment of 30,000+ veterans. If ACICS’s status as an accrediting agency is revoked – these institutions will be given 18 months to apply for and receive accreditation (or not) from another body. The question that remains is how other academic institutions, state licensing bodies and national and state credentialing organizations will react to degrees from these institutions. Revoking accreditation on this scale is far different and begs the question of whether the degrees are worth anything at all.

It is the government vs. free enterprise on a massive scale. The result? Institutions are shut down … and veterans are shut out.

If you read the FAQ’s dispensed by the Department of Education, everything has to do with continuing or completing a current degree program. The following helpful advice is offered, “It’s worth noting here that licensing for some jobs – but not all – may require that your program is currently accredited by a Department-recognized accreditor.” This appears along with the vague assurance that, “Nobody can take away the hard work you put in or the skills you gained. Your school was accredited when you earned your degree, and you’ll never have to return your certificate or diploma.” [http://blog.ed.gov/2016/06/college-accreditation-changes-mean-students/] Yes, but is it worth anything? – that is the real question, and it is a question that will only be decided by schools considering transfer credits, by licensing and credentialing bodies and by employers.

The de-certification of a large accrediting body has the potential to impact the career prospects of not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Can anything be done?

A key and oft-stated military expression is: “Never offer a problem without a solution.” I can’t say that I have great answers to the problems I’ve briefly outlined above – real solutions are going to require not only legislative intervention but frankly the understanding and sacrifice of existing colleges, credentialing institutions and employers. From my perspective, this is a problem bigger than any one person or organization – to that end we’ve created a movement to bring together willing hands and minds and leadership – you can learn more at: www.betterforveterans.org.

betterforveterans.org

What I can offer is some guidance from my experience in crisis management and combat operations. As other crisis management professionals can attest, the primary need in crisis response is simple, clear, communication … followed by simple clear direction to specific resources identified within a simple, clear recovery process. What veterans face right now is a mess of vitriolic media followed by accusations, followed by muddled and non-specific directives.

Are there schools ready to stand to assist? – to take transfer credits and provide a safe landing for current students? Are there schools that will welcome prior graduates – to assess their skills and offer rapid tracks to valid degrees? Are states willing to step into the gap … is there a veteran service organization that will take the lead in assuring that real legislation is drafted and passed?

Call to action

If you represent an institution that is willing and able to help – please let me know – I would love to help identify you as a ready resource not only for current veterans affected by the ITT Tech crisis … but for the looming disaster to follow.

Again! My apologies for what seems to be a trend toward “gloom and doom” posts, hopefully we’ll see a turn back to the positive – it’s just impossible to see this coming and do nothing.

…And perhaps I’ve gotten it wrong … my gut tells me I haven’t but in any case your comments are welcome.