JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —Petty Officer 1st Class Avery Billings, whose end of active service is scheduled for next Thursday, is eagerly awaiting his chance to exhaust his Post-9/11 GI Bill at an online school, sources confirm.
Billings, an instructor at the Navy's Nuclear Power School, is preparing to move back to California once he leaves active duty. However, instead of taking his impressive resume, straight-A community college transcripts, and hard-earned educational benefits to a UC or CSU campus, he is planning to use his GI Bill to pursue a degree at a for-profit online college.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime!" said an elated Billings to his fellow instructors during lunch-break. "When else will I get a chance to use my ticket to an education at a school where things are so easy, and almost 40% of their graduates find jobs within two years of graduation?"
Billings has expressed interest in a Bachelors of Arts in Strategic Intelligence Studies at Libertarian University, since he's interested in "spy stuff" but doesn't feel like joining military intelligence. Sources say that when he is asked what he will do with the degree, he invariably says, "Probably go work for the NSA or CIA, or whatever. I'll figure it out."
However, this has worried some people, including his direct supervisor, Chief Petty Officer Hiram Blackstone.
"Billings is a good guy. He's highly intelligent and a hard worker. But that's why I'm worried about him choosing Libertarian University," Blackstone said. "Supposedly, they're accredited and stuff, but I feel like he's wasting his potential."
Blackstone believes Billings could do "great things" with his intellect, "like getting a degree in applied mathematics or computer science, and put that on his resume for a three-letter agency. There's a variety of better options. But using his ticket-to-the-middle-class at a for-profit school with low graduation- and high default-rates? Come on, now."
"He's intelligent, but common sense isn't one of his strengths," Blackstone concluded.
Avery Billings is one of many thousands of military personnel and veterans who have enrolled at for-profit universities over the years due to their advertised flexibility and military-friendliness. In recent years, however, for-profits have come under increased scrutiny for their aggressive marketing tactics targeted at current and former members of the armed services, due to their robust educational benefits.
"I'm just worried Avery will end up an empty cash piñata once he graduates," says Cdr. Shayna Evans, Billings' section head.
UPDATE: Since this article was originally published, Billings learned that Libertarian University's accrediting agency isn't recognized by the Department of Education. A civilian friend submitted Billings' resume to several companies without his knowledge. Billings has accepted a six-figure job in the nuclear power industry, and is working on a degree in nuclear engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.