Veteran Employment News by Ted Daywalt
Predatory For-Profit Schools
Veteran education prospects have improved greatly with the new Post 9/11 GI Bill. But when one looks at the evidence, the current Post-9/11 GI Bill has truly been usurped by predatory for-profit schools. Note I use the term predatory for-profit schools as not all for-profit schools have engaged in less than ethical behavior. The actions and behaviors of the predatory for-profit schools need to be curtailed and Veterans need to be made aware of how to spot a predatory for-profit school.
I want to be very clear that not all for-profit schools are bad. But those that are bad, are very bad. There are technical, trade, and universities that are for-profit that have done a good job.
To give you an idea of how bad the situation is regarding predatory for-profit schools, the Department of Justice and four states have filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corporation (EMC), the nation’s second-largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal financial aid it had received from July 2003 through June 2011. The suit said that each year EMC falsely certified that it was complying with the law, making it eligible to receive student financial aid. The major class of students that Education Management Corporation has targeted over the years is Veterans. EMC is based in Pittsburgh and is 41% owned by Goldman Sachs. It enrolls about 150,000 students in 105 schools operating under four names: Art Institute, Argosy University, Brown Mackie College and South University. This suit is just the start of the move by many to curtail the predatory for-profit schools.
In another example, an August 2010 GAO undercover investigation report described investigators posing as prospective students applied for admissions at 15 for-profit colleges in 6 states and Washington, D.C. The colleges were selected based on several factors, including those that the Department of Education reported received 89% or more of their revenue from federal student aid. GAO also entered information on four fictitious prospective students into education search Web sites to determine what type of follow-up contact resulted from an inquiry. GAO compared tuition for the 15 for-profit colleges tested with tuition for the same programs at other colleges located in the same geographic areas. The GAO undercover applications at the 15 for-profit colleges found that 4 of the colleges encouraged fraudulent practices and that all 15 engaged in deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to GAO’s undercover applicants. Four undercover applicants were encouraged by college personnel to falsify their financial aid forms to qualify for federal aid! Falsifying applications is a federal offense.
Amazingly, in spite of the findings of the GAO undercover investigation, VA and DoD continue to allow the 15 predatory for-profit schools to enroll active duty, Veterans and spouses. There obviously is no effective oversight of the educational programs at DoD and VA!
If you are enrolled in an online school and are concerned about the school’s accreditation, call the admissions or registrar at a state school and ask if you applied to a graduate school program at the state school, would the school accept the degree from the online school you are attending. If they will not accept it, you may be wasting your GI Bill benefits! The same applies to training programs. Some predatory for-profits will claim the training is accepted by the state licensing authority when in reality, the training is not acceptable.
As has been reported in the press and blogs, many of the predatory for-profit schools and their extensive, well-funded (indirectly with federal dollars from the students) lobbying group argue that Veterans and their educational benefits should be left to “the invisible hand of the free markets.” Others argue that Veterans have the “free choice” to elect an institution that they feel best suits their educational needs. And still others argue that Veterans and Servicemembers “know what is best for them as they are grownups” and the programs “serve those who cannot attend traditional two- and four-year institutions.”
These arguments are specious at best and suggest that Veterans have the knowledge to make informed decisions, that they have a complete understanding of the stratified system of higher education or have access to the knowledge through base and command education counselors. These are false assumptions.
I want to again emphasize that not all for-profit schools are bad. However, active duty and Veterans who are pursuing degrees at schools that commit the above described actions need to know that they are probably wasting their GI Bill benefits when attending a predatory for-profit. The bottom line is that many predatory for-profits see military students as dollar signs in a uniform.
The actions of the predatory for-profit schools need to be stopped. Veterans, the very people who have defended our country and protect our constitutional republic and free market society we enjoy, deserve better. Had DoD and VA provided proper oversight for the funds they were dispensing to the predatory for-profit schools, we would not have these problems and Veterans and their family members would not have been encountering the myriad of problems when trying to get an education.
About the author:
Ted Daywalt is the President of VetJobs, the leading military job board on the Internet. He is a retired Navy Captain and served during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He is a life member of VMW.
From VMW Modern Warrior Vol. 3
Sean P Eagan
Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans