The Dos and Do Nots of Military & Veteran Advertising 

Advertising to the Military & Veteran Community

written by Veterans Education Project, a partner of CollegeRecon

It is no great secret that postsecondary education enrollment is down, way down. The pool of potential applicants is getting smaller. This makes nonprofit board members and administrators across the country nervous.  

According to an economist at UCLA, Adriana Lleras-Muney, “the growing gap in educational attainment could also worsen existing divisions over politics, socioeconomic status, race, and national origin.” This directly affects student Veterans and student Servicemembers who are guided – almost required – by military leadership to engage in higher education during or after their military service.  

Getting a hardworking, disciplined, military professional into the classroom is certainly a bonus for educators worried about student performance. However, due to the drop in enrollment, now, more than ever, colleges and universities are incentivized to fill their empty seats with the guaranteed revenue garnered by student veterans’ GI Bill® benefits. This article highlights one such example and points to ways that schools can more honestly attract student Servicemembers and Veterans. 

DO NOT(s) of Military Advertising

Misrepresent Career Opportunities

According to a 2019 Complaint, filed by the FTC, the University of Phoenix (UOP) allegedly crossed the line with its 2012 “Let’s Get To Work” advertising campaign. In its campaign, UOP featured numerous high-profile corporate employers, such as Microsoft, Twitter, Adobe, and Yahoo!. Specifically, UOP and its umbrella corporation represented that the university worked with companies to create career or employment opportunities for its students and that it worked with companies, such as Adobe, Microsoft, and Twitter, to develop curriculum oriented to the companies’ job requirements. When, in reality—alleged by the FTC – these companies were not working with UOP or its umbrella corporation to create job options for students or to develop curriculums. An important section of the FTC’s Order prohibited UOP from equating business relationships to career opportunities for its students as well as expressing or implying that such relationships create a preferential treatment in the hiring process for its students.

Not Just For-Profits

There is a popular misconception that such illicit practices are limited solely to the for-profit sector. It is unfortunately common practice for career services offices at nonprofit, for-profit, and public postsecondary educational institutions to boast to current and prospective students of their relationships to businesses. For example, one career services officer might claim, “just had coffee with the senior partner at __ law firm, and they are looking for a full-time law clerk.” While enticing as that may sound, it is not a job. Rather, it is an opportunity to apply for a job, but some universities ignore that reality and continue to boast their high-profile career opportunities to prospective students on promotional material and websites simply because their career services representative knows a couple of professionals in the local community.

“Military Friendly” Accolades and Outdated Imagery

Nonetheless, UOP boasts some of the highest enrollment of student Veterans and the for-profit sector continues to receive the most attention with respect to exaggerated advertising practices. As such, it may be best practice not to slap giant military-friendly accolades on a university website or use the generic, stock imagery with old, raggedy uniforms to try and reach military members and veterans with interest in career-making educational opportunities. 

DO(s) of Marketing to the Military

Accurate Data and Transparency

Genuine advertising will win the day for those seeking best practices. Schools would be well-advised to conspicuously share information on: 

  • Mandatory disclosures 
  • Job placement rates of student veterans, factoring out internally hired graduates 
  • Number of enrolled student veterans and their graduation rates 
  • Number of enrolled student servicemembers and their graduation rates 
  • Student veterans center (or its equivalent)
  • College or University’s 5-year plan  
  • GI Bill® School Feedback Tool and CollegeRecon School Rating Tool
  • Federal / State legal rights for student veterans and student servicemembers 

Prospective student veterans (VA), student servicemembers (DoD), and their respective support structures, i.e., friends, family, and military leaders, all depend on accurate information about potential educational institutions to make fully informed decisions about the pursuit of higher education.

Graduation Rates of Veterans

It may be worth knowing an educational institution enrolled over 1,000 student veterans and cashed their GI Bill benefits while only graduating 40% of them each year. Conversely, it may be beneficial for prospective student veterans to know that a university, which boasts a sophisticated, professional student veterans webpage, only has 18 veterans enrolled compared to its total 8,000 enrolled students.

Disclosing Credit Transfer Policies

Unfortunately, some educational institutions are more interested in advertising their Olympic-sized swimming pools or luxury dormitories than disclosing credit transfer policies as required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The practice of hiding federally mandated disclosures in a complex system of web-based links ought to be replaced with genuine advertising that shares with student veterans, student servicemembers, and their support structures important information about their current or prospective choice of school front and center.

by Veterans Education Project, for more info, please visit their website.