The nation’s for-profit colleges and universities have reaped a windfall from the Post-Sept. 11 GI Bill.
The top for-profit companies brought in around $1 billion in benefits in the last year alone. And some lawmakers say federal regulations encourage these schools to target current and former members of the military.
At a Senate hearing Thursday, lawmakers and witnesses praised the two-year Post-Sept.11 GI Bill, saying it had helped many vets and active-duty service personnel go to college.
But Ted Daywalt, president of the service organization VetJobs, says abuses are common.
"The current Post-9/11 GI Bill has truly been usurped by predatory for-profit schools," he says.
Daywalt says many schools see military people as particularly attractive because their GI Bill funds do not count as federal support. It’s an important rule for-profit schools follow: For every $100 a school takes in, only $90 can come from federal money such as student loans or Pell grants.
Holly Petraeus now looks out for vets at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She says that as a result of that exemption, for-profit schools tailor their offerings so they’ll appeal to vets and active-duty personnel.
"Easy to sign up, military friendly, you can do it online — but the question is: What is the value of those courses or that degree once you’ve completed them?" she says.
In many cases, not much, according to Petraeus’ editorial in Thursday’s New York Times.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said at a news conference that these schools have much higher dropout rates than public schools, even though they cost the government a lot more money.
"Public schools [cost] about $4,874 and the for-profit schools [cost] $10,875 — so they get this huge dropout rate, but they’re charging twice as much as the public schools," he says.
Many feel that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense just don’t police these schools closely enough. That was the conclusion of a Government Accountability Office report earlier this year. It said the government does not counsel personnel about websites like GIBill.com, a private site that steers military folks to the school of their choice — as long as it’s on the site’s list of for-profits.
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