JSC’s “military-friendly rating” The Real Deal or just good PR?

Real or posed?

Tanya Knight

Real or posed?

Congratulations to Johnson State College for being awarded the title of Military Friendly by Victory Media.  As a Communications and Community Media student at JSC and a retired veteran, I have just one little question: What gives Victory Media the right to decide what schools are Military Friendly?

To start, Military Friendly is a trademarked name owned by Victory Media.  Victory Media is a for-profit publishing and marketing company that has connected veterans with potential employers for the last 13 years, and over the last few years has expanded to include colleges from around the nation.

Victory Media is not a non-profit watchdog group that rates schools out of the goodness of its heart.  It is a privately owned company in the business of making money.  It is not endorsed by or affiliated with the U.S. Military, the Department of Veteran Affairs, or any veterans’ interest groups like the VFW or the American Legion.  So how does it decide what institutions are prestigiously awarded the title of Military Friendly?

I started my investigation on www.militaryfriendly.com. There I was able to find a list, by state, of all the schools that are rated Military Friendly, but that’s all.  There was not data, just a simple list.  If you want to search for a specific school by either name or location, you are directed to www.gijobs.com, also owned by Victory Media.  So I looked up JSC, and what I didn’t find there was shocking.  No numerical data were posted.  Other than the basic information about JSC that can be found on the college’s website, there was not much.  There are five vague categories each with a bar graph but no way to determine the value of each bar.  I needed to have more information so I contacted Victory Media and spoke with Paul Grant, Director of Sales.  From Grant I was able to find out that a college must take and pass a 100-question survey to be rated Military Friendly.  All of the questions are either yes/no, or require numerical facts such as the number of veterans are enrolled at the institution.  This kind of question may even the playing field for all schools, but why is there no statistical information listed? “Some schools do score higher than others schools but we do not actually publish that,” Grant said.

So, without published statistics, how are you to know that Victory Media treats every school the same and that some schools are not on the list just because they pay for it?  That’s where Ernst & Young come in.  Ernst & Young specializes in assurance services and they were hired to ensure that every school listed as Military Friendly is just that.  “They were brought in to make sure schools and veterans who use the list know that it is not a ‘pay to play’ list and has nothing to do with advertising,” Grant said.

“There are more schools on the list that don’t do any marketing with us than those that do.”

My fears of a marketing scheme are laid to rest, but why not give the schools an overall grade on how Military Friendly they are?  You would think it would be easier to compare schools if one received an A- and another received a C+, but Victory Media disagrees.  “Because we have numerous schools on the list, it’s hard to grade an MBA school against a certificate program,” said Grant.

In the future Victory Media may group the schools by type, but as of now that is not the case.

So who benefits from the Military Friendly title?  Of course Victory Media does.  It would not run the program if it didn’t.  JSC also benefits as its name is listed for free on a high-traffic website.  However, I believe the veteran who is transitioning from life on active duty to that of a student is the greatest benefactor.  With so many organizations out there looking to take advantage of individuals, it is nice to see one that takes the extra step to prove their legitimacy, and I believe Victory Media has done just that.
JSC was military friendly long before the creation of the Military Friendly brand name.  The school meets all of the federal requirements to receive GI Bill benefits, there is a committee to addresses veteran issues – not only veterans enrolled at JSC but throughout the local community.  In recent months there have even been discussions on expanding the services that JSC is able to provide, either on their own or in conjunction with outside organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I would say that this combined with what JSC has already done makes the college a great place for our country’s veterans.

But you don’t need to search the web to find out if your school or employer is military friendly.  All your really need to do is ask a veteran.