Several large veterans organizations on asking the federal government to "crack down on colleges that prey on veterans by charging exorbitant fees for degrees that mostly fail to deliver promised skills and jobs," The New York Times reports
The organizations in letters sent to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs call on the department to improve oversight over colleges receiving millions in funding the G.I. Bill, but engage in deceptive recruiting by misrepresenting programs and job placement performance.
Organizations calling for tighter scrutiny of colleges benefiting from the G.I. Bill include the American Legion, the National Military Family Association, the Military Officers Association of American and nearly 20 other groups.
The Huffington Post reports
that the U.S. Department of Education is nearing a settlement with the lender Navient over allegations that this Sallie Mae spin-off violated laws in its student loan lending practices to veterans.
"The agreement likely would end the Education Department's much-delayed and heavily-criticized probe into whether the nation’s largest student loan specialist -- a major government contractor -- broke the law that caps interest rates and provides other special financial protections for active-duty members of the military," the website said.
"The Education Department’s investigation followed a May deal with the government in which Navient settled federal accusations that it had intentionally overcharged about 60,000 active-duty troops on federal and private student loans over nearly a decade. The company, which neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, agreed to pay $60 million to troops as part of its settlement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Department of Justice."
"Despite the Justice Department’s detailed complaint, which followed a referral by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Education Secretary Arne Duncan later announced a 'thorough' review to determine whether the company indeed overcharged troops."
A recent editorial
in the New York Times hails an effort by the Obama Administration that "deserves unanimous support" in Congress to close a loophole that stands to harm veterans seeking to better themselves through higher education.
The current loophole allows for-profit colleges -- which are prohibited from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid -- to not include aid provided to veterans as federal aid in meeting the 90/10 ratio.
"By failing to explicitly count G.I. Bill benefits and Department of Defense Tuition Assistance in the 90 percent, Congress created an opening for the schools to count this aid as part of the private 10 percent. By pursuing and signing up veterans, schools can now cover up the fact that few, if any, private citizens are willing to pay to attend them," The Times wrote.
According to the Times, "After passage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
in 2008, more federal dollars began flowing into the coffers of publicly traded for-profit colleges, many of which have come under scrutiny for deceptive or illegal practices. For example, a Senate report issued last summer noted that seven companies with relatively high levels of G.I. Bill revenue were under investigation by state attorneys general or federal agencies for deceptive and misleading recruiting or other possible violations of federal laws."
The Times added: "This industry clearly needs to be cleaned up. Congress can take the simple step of revising the 90-10 rule so that G.I. Bill and Defense Department tuition are counted as what they clearly are: taxpayer dollars."
A coalition of attorneys general from more than 30 states are engaged in a coordinated effort to investigate and crack down on predatory practices within the for-profit school industry. As reported
by the Pew Charitable Trust's news service, leaders in 32 states, working under the leadership of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, are investigating complaints against for-profit colleges and trade schools. One reason for the effort, according to the report, is the sheer volume of taxpayer dollars going to support the for-profit school industry, which routinely receives as much as 90 percent of its revenue from federal and state student loan programs.
The Pew report chronicles the experience of an Iraq war veteran, Murray Hastie, who was initially turned down by two colleges upon his return from two tours of duty. According to Pew, Hastie then came upon DeVry University, a for-profit school that sent a representative to his home the day after he filled out an online information request. Hastie decided to enroll in a "biomedical informatics" program at a DeVry campus in New Jersey, after being informed that the costs of the program would be covered by GI benefits, according to Pew. But Hastie's experience thereafter was troubling. As described in the Pew report: "Three semesters into the program, Hastie was struggling. He was being taught to write computer code, not preparing to work in a research lab, which is what he had been told he would be doing. Meanwhile, he was increasingly worried about his mounting debt. By the time he decided to cut his losses and move back home, Hastie had racked up more than $90,000 in student loans—with no degree to show for it."
A new system aimed at making it easier for veterans and military service members to file complaints regarding deceptive practices by for-profit colleges is up and running. As reported
in the Huffington Post, the new portals for complaints are the result of a collaboration involving the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission. Numerous investigations have revealed that for profit colleges have engaged in widespread abuses of vets and military families.