april 24, 2012

Movement against GI Bill Predators Continues as President Obama Signs Order Limiting Aggressive College Recruiting of Vets

President Obama's Weekly Radio Address Discusses Colleges that "Prey" on Veterans for their Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits

WASHINGTON, DC - The Post 9/11 GI Bill was passed to give the newest generation of veterans the same type of support that was given to the veterans of World War II that helped them become the “Greatest Generation”. However, recent years have shown that some schools, particularly for-profit colleges, who take advantage of veterans looking to go to school by promising too much while offering little. Now, as veterans will be preparing to go to school in the fall of 2012, a movement is well underway that will stop these predatory practices against our young veterans.

President Obama was at Georgia’s Fort Stewart on Friday to sign an executive order to help protect military families and veterans from aggressive and deceptive recruiting by higher education institutions seeking their military benefits. The order will require colleges to provide more information about their student outcomes and financial aid, create a centralized complaint system and direct the Veterans Administration to trademark the term “G.I. Bill” to make it harder for colleges to create Web sites resembling official government sites or falsely suggest that they offer special access to veterans’ benefits.

“I’ve heard the stories,” Mr. Obama said. “They harass you into making a quick decision with all those calls and e-mails. And if they can’t get you online, they show up on post. One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries — just for the money. These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.”

The President promised to “bring an end to the aggressive — and sometimes dishonest — recruiting” by increasing oversight, strengthening the rules about who can come on post to talk to service members, and making it easier to file complaints.

Part of the problem with the Post 9/11 GI Bill stems from a loophole in law creates a strong incentive for aggressive recruiting of veterans by for-profit colleges. In an effort to ensure that the education provided is valuable enough that some students will pay part of the costs out of pocket, the “90/10 rule” requires that for-profit colleges get at least 10 percent of their revenues from a private source. But veterans’ and military benefits count toward that 10 percent, making service members especially valuable for the publicly traded for-profit college companies that get nearly 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid.

For Jack Fanous, Executive Director of the GI Go Fund, it is the trademarking of the word “GI Bill” that is critically important, as for-profit schools have lured many veterans through deceptive websites that make the vets feel that they are sponsored by the government. One of them, GIBill.com, was particularly problematic.

“If you’re a veteran and you want to go online to learn about the GI Bill, the first thing anyone would do is go to gibill.com. You go there, you answer a slew of questions, and you think that they are working for you. But when you look further, you see that the only schools recommended are all for-profit schools. It makes it seem as if that is all is available,” he said.

The movement against the schools is growing more and more. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation called the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act which will create a report card for every school covered by Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to disclose information about their policies on transferring credits to other schools, their average student loan debt, their course or degree completion rate, and how many graduates find jobs in their chosen fields. In addition, the Student Veterans of America, who hold chapters on the campuses of nearly every college in the country, revoked the charters on over 25 for-profit schools this week.

While many are hesitant to paint a broad brush denouncing all for-profit institutions, as some schools have performed better than others, the signs clearly show that the days of for-profit colleges preying on veterans looking to go to use their GI Bill are numbered.