NY Times: Fix the New G.I. Bill

Career College Central Summary:

  • THIS Veterans Day there will be over a million students on college campuses in the United States who are using their G.I. Bill benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs forecasts that the number of student veterans will increase by 20 percent in the next few years.
  • These student veterans are unlike the vast majority of their student counterparts, as more than 60 percent are first-generation students and almost half have children of their own. Much more needs to be done to ensure that they are getting the education they need to succeed in the modern economy.
  • After 9/11, Congress passed a new G.I. Bill modeled after the post-World War II legislation that so powerfully expressed America’s gratitude to its veterans. The original G.I. Bill of 1944 lifted up thousands of veterans and their families, and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, enacted in 2008, attempts to do the same. Yet higher education today is far more complicated than it was in the 1940s.
  • Perhaps the most troubling phenomenon returning veterans face right now is this: predatory for-profit schools that exploit their G.I. Bill funding and offer them — and taxpayers — very little in return. The schools in question are eager to access our veterans’ grants and loans, but they employ deceptive recruiting practices and achieve low graduation rates.
  • For-profit schools have received over $4 billion — over a third of all benefits — under the new G.I. Bill, even though they educate only one-quarter of veterans, and even though their graduation rate is less than half of the graduation rate at nonprofit schools. For-profits are also responsible for about half of all student-loan defaults.
  • Further, for-profit schools often charge more than the G.I. Bill covers, saddling veterans with high debt that is not dischargeable if they find themselves filing for bankruptcy. And since many for-profits are unaccredited, students often find it difficult or impossible to transfer credits to accredited colleges or to apply to graduate school. This trap exacerbates an already difficult transition from military to civilian life.
  • Last month, the Obama administration published new regulations that will impose sanctions — including the loss of eligibility for federal funding — on schools whose graduates earn too little income to carry their debt.
  • That is a good step, but much more can be done.
  • Congress should rally behind the Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers Act proposal. Currently, G.I. Bill funding is not classified as a federal source of revenue for for-profit companies. This act would remedy the existing misclassification, thereby reducing the amount of federal dollars that for-profit schools collect. (For-profits are currently prohibited from deriving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal funds.)

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