Veterans’ Student Loan Relief and IAVA Announce Collaboration To Help Veterans Misled by For-Profit Education Companies
IAVA’s website highlights Fund, which is taking applications for grants of up to $5,000 to help defray student veteran loan debt
May 16, 2013 – The Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced today that they have joined forces to help active-duty military, veterans, and family members defray the student loan debt they accumulated while attending colleges operated by unscrupulous for-profit education companies.
The IAVA website is the new home for the Fund, which awards grants of as much as $5,000 to student vets who have been taken advantage of by for-profit colleges, which promise quality education and lucrative careers. In reality, students deplete their hard-earned Post-9/11 GI Bill and federal financing as well as take out huge loans in exchange for subpar educations, non-transferable credits, worthless degrees or no degrees at all.
“The Post 9/11 GI Bill is a great achievement, representing the largest investment in veterans’ education since the Second World War. IAVA was proud to spearhead passage of the New GI Bill, which is helping servicemembers and their families across the country start their education journey. Unfortunately, a number of for-profit education companies have aggressively targeted and ripped off veterans and their education benefits. As we fight these fraudulent practices, we are thankful for these grants to support veterans who have been victims of for-profit companies,” said IAVA founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff.
Matthew Boulay, Director, Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, and a veteran of the war in Iraq, said, “We are enthusiastic that the IAVA, with its 150,000+ members, is helping to lead the fund’s outreach. It is important that we both warn vets to be wary of the for-profits’ aggressive recruiting and marketing tactics and to alert them to the grants, which could help defray some of their college loan debt.”
To date, 13 student veterans have received grants. Information and applications can be found at http://iava.org/loan-relief.
IAVA also set up a New GI Bill Benefits Calculator (http://newgibill.org/calculator) to help veterans with their education benefits.
A Large Problem
Some for-profit education companies aggressively recruit returning veterans and active-duty military because they are particularly desirable sources of income. Each enrolled veteran gives a for-profit college access to tens of thousands of GI Bill dollars and other federal education benefits as well as access to student loans. These schools often use high-pressure and misleading tactics to get vets to sign up.
Taxpayers spend twice as much to send a veteran to a for-profit school than they do to a public or non-profit college: compare public college costs at $4,642 to for-profit costs of $10,441. For-profit education companies have collected nearly one-third of all Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits ($1.6 billion). And, despite efforts to curtail this practice, many for-profit schools’ earnings continue to come almost entirely from federal funds.
Unfortunately, this is not a good investment. For-profits have dramatically high dropout rates and dismal student outcomes. Many are not properly accredited, as a result their credits are often not transferable and their degrees essentially worthless. Because for-profits offer subpar educations, many vets drop out early in a semester but the schools keep the GI Bill funds, leaving the vet without money needed to enroll in a state or non-profit university.
There is momentum for change that started in 2008 with Senator Tom Harkin’s extensive investigation into the practices of for-profit education companies. In 2010, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led by Senator Harkins, issued a scathing report on this issue, “Benefitting Whom? For-Profit Education Companies and the Growth of Military Educational Benefits.”
Through bi-partisan legislation and an executive order, Congress and the Obama Administration have begun taking steps to better defend veterans from these predatory companies. In April 2012, President Obama signed the Executive Order, “Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members.” Designed to provide information, support, and protection to veterans to ensure they are aware of the full cost and quality of the education offered by these companies, the executive order also gave the federal government stronger oversight and enforcement tools to increase accountability.
This past winter, Congress passed a bi-partisan bill, the “Comprehensive Veterans Education Information Policy Act,” which, among other things, directs the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy requiring for-profit colleges to disclose more information about total costs (tuition, other fees, etc.), financing, graduation rates, placement rates for jobs that match the education paid for, and whether graduates are eligible for the government certificates or licenses required for those jobs, and more. Among its provisions, the bill bans GI Bill funds to go to schools that are encouraging aggressive recruitment tactics such as commissions, bonuses or other inducements to recruiters who are targeting vets.
On the local level, State Attorneys General are mounting campaigns to crack down on predatory practices based on consumer fraud complaints. Most recently, Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, announced that her office is investigating the practices of for-profit colleges. Some AGs have already succeeded in getting millions of dollars back to student who were victimized.
“These are all positive steps forward, but more action is needed to ensure that laws and regulations are enforced,” said Boulay, who added, “In the meantime, we are happy that we are able to help some of the student vets with our grants.”
About the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund
The Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund was created by Jerome Kohlberg, a World War II veteran and early champion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The fund, which is administered by Scholarship America, provides grants of up to $5,000 to qualified active-duty military, veterans and family members who believe they have been misled by for-profit educational companies. To date, 13 student veterans have received grants.
For information and resources to help veterans evaluate schools, please visit http://knowbeforeyouenroll.org.
About the IAVA
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.