Today, the New York Times editorialized in favor of stronger protections to prevent some schools from abusing Post-9/11 G.I. Bill education benefits and preventing veterans from getting the quality education they deserve. Citing new data recently released by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the editorial calls on Congress to close the 90/10 rule loophole that makes veterans and servicemembers lucrative recruiting targets for for-profit colleges.
As Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Harkin has led an investigation into the for-profit college industry, uncovering aggressive recruiting tactics targeting veterans and active-duty servicemen and women in order to bring their federally-funded education benefits to companies that charge high tuition and have poor retention and graduation rates.
For more information, please contact Justine Sessions of Senator Harkin’s HELP Committee staff at 202-224-3254.
New York Times
A Broader G.I. Bill
Published: October 3, 2011
Starting this month, military veterans pursuing an education under the G.I. Bill have many more choices. The money for tuition, books and housing used to be just for study at colleges and universities, but now the G.I. Bill also covers non-degree institutions like vocational and technical schools, flight schools, and licensing and apprenticeship programs.
That is good news. Veterans, who deserve this country’s full support, are struggling with high unemployment rates and would benefit from high-quality job training. But there is also peril in these new opportunities. Unless strong controls are put in place, the surge of G.I. Bill money will be a windfall for fly-by-night schools more interested in cashing in on veterans than educating them.
As a Senate committee warned in a recent report, a disproportionate amount of the taxpayer money spent on veterans’ education has already been snapped up by private, for-profit colleges. These schools often cost much more than public institutions yet have dismal graduation rates and dubious curriculums.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions found that for-profit schools have collected 37 percent of all G.I. Bill money but trained only 25 percent of veterans. In the 2010-11 academic year, when 5,985 institutions collected $4.4 billion in V.A. benefits, eight of the 10 biggest aid recipients were for-profit institutions, together raking in $1 billion. From those eight, the committee found, a total of 409,437 students withdrew from degree programs within a year of enrolling.
One reason for-profit colleges aggressively recruit veterans is the federal “90/10 rule,” which forbids for-profit schools to take more than 90 percent of revenue from federal student aid. V.A. money does not count under that limit, so every enrolled veteran is precious to a school desperate to keep within the 90/10 ratio.
Schools recruit heavily for another reason: Because federal grants do not always cover tuition and expenses, students are often roped into private loans, another revenue stream in the booming for-profit education business.
The V.A. says it will review all for-profit schools in the 2012 fiscal year to make sure they comply with accrediting standards, and conduct annual reviews of all institutions that have more than 300 G.I. Bill students. That will make a difference only if bad schools actually end up being kicked out of the program. So far, that has seldom happened. Congress could also help by closing the 90/10 loophole that makes veterans targets for aggressive and deceptive recruiting.
Buyers, as always, need to beware. Many for-profit schools and Web sites that plug their programs are spending far more effort marketing themselves to veterans than actually educating them.