Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Victory Media Friendly School

In the comments to my post on The Best Colleges ranking, I received a heads-up from jhicks23 about another questionable accolade which The Penn State Propaganda Portal has recently pimped:
G.I. Jobs magazine has designated Penn State a military friendly school for 2012. It is the third straight time the  Pittsburgh-based publication has recognized the University's programs and services designed specifically to help active-duty military  service members and veterans pursue an education online through Penn State's World Campus.
I decided to take a closer look at how  G.I. Jobs magazine's military friendly school list works.  

According to the Military Friendly Schools website, G.I. Jobs starts with a list of 7000 colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide and narrows these down to around 1000 schools.  The explanation  of how this is done is a bit vague. It supposedly involves "exhaustive research" by the G.I. Jobs Military Friendly Schools Team. And that research "includes government agencies and private entities which administer education benefits and a comprehensive survey administered by G.I. Jobs. A Military Friendly Schools Academic Advisory Panel, consisting of five higher education administrators, helps determine survey questions and weightings."   What does it mean for the research to include government agencies and private entities? Does it mean that the data used in the research comes from these source?  No mention of to whom the survey is administered. Anyway, once they somewhat mysteriously assemble the data they use a set of criteria to winnow the  list down to about 1000 schools.   It is worth noting that the schools on the list are not ranked. Here is the nominal  reason for that
We purposely do not use a numerical ranking system as we encourage student to use our resources as a starting point for seeking education. School choice is not a one-size fits all process, so we built the Matchmaker tool to help narrow down the field.
Up to this point everything seems on the up and up. If we take G. I. Jobs at their word the collect and analyze data to come up with a list of schools for vets to select from by purely objective means.

It is the next step in the process where things get dicey. Once the list of military friendly schools is assembled G. I. Jobs sends out a  media kit to the schools on the list soliciting advertizing from them. Here's the pitch from that kit
Through its many established brands, long experience, deep relationships and unparalleled rating system, Victory Media’s print and web media products serve as the foundation for any school serious about recruiting the military and veteran student. If you’re one of the 20% of all schools nationwide which made the Military Friendly Schools® list, congratulations on such an elite achievement. Our media products, which start at only $990 per year, stand ready to carry your recruiting message to the enormous and valuable military student market. Only Military Friendly Schools® can run advertising in the print version of the Guide
to Military Friendly Schools® and All other media are open to all schools.


In September 2011, the Military Friendly Schools® list will be released nationally to the press. Your school is encouraged to issue its
own press release to promote your inclusion.

That's Penn State's press release that I linked to back in  the first paragraph.

Here's the  menu of advertizing options from the kit.
From Drop Box

We see here the real reason that G. I. Jobs doesn't assign ranks to the schools. They want to give schools that advertize with them an advantage over those that don't advertize with them.  So even if one is generous in assuming no manipulations are involved in compiling the list,  we see that the manipulation comes in at this stage.   And how big of an advantage do schools that pay for advertizing have over those that don't?  Well, here's what the folks at G. I. Jobs provides a partial answer in their media kit.

How much does this all cost? Other than the reference to $990 per year in the above quote from the kit, all  prices have been redacted from the publicly available media kit.

But apparently no one at G. I. Jobs had a background in military intelligence, they redacted the prices by pasting opaque images over them which I was able to edit out with a PDF editor. The uncensored kit is here and here are the price lists from that uncensored kit.

So has the Penn State World Campus spent any money on advertizing with the nice folks at G.I. Jobs? You betcha

Note the "add to my school list" button. Schools that don't advertize don't get one of those which make it harder for vets to compare the schools that don't pay to those that do.

How much has Penn State spent on these ads? Once more I turn to the Snyder Reports which, unfortunately, do not give a definitive answer to the question. Penn State has been on the list three years running 2009-2010, 2010--2011 and this year, 2011-2012. This years payments will show up in a future Snyder Report, either the 2011-2012 report or the 2012-2013 depending on if the check for his went out before or after July 1rst this summer. 

What about past years? According to the reports, Victory Media, the publisher of G.I. Jobs, was paid $24,235 in fiscal year 2007-2008 (p. 471). If the military friendly list came out during the summer of 2009-2010, then this payment predated the World Campus' first appearance on the list.  If this  is the case, one must wonder how Penn State's prior advertizing with G.I. Jobs influenced its first appearance on the list.  And the payment of $17,226 in fiscal year 2008-2009 (p. 551) could be for either of the first two years on the list. 

No matter how you slice this, Penn State  World Campus is certainly a Victory Media Friendly School.

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