Veterans slam loosening rules on for-profit colleges

Matt Saintsing
June 13, 2018 - 4:51 pm

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Nell King


Veterans’ groups are lining up to oppose a bill that would protect predatory, for-profit colleges, but could leave student veterans burdened with massive debt, a degree of questionable quality, and zero job prospects.

H.R. 4508, known as the PROSPER Act, is a massive 542-page bill pushed by House Republicans that would overhaul the Higher Education Act, which regulates everything from financial aid to Greek life on campuses.

Supporters of the legislation, like Rep. Virginia Foxx (R- N.C.) say that it cuts down on overly burdensome regulations and other reporting requirements for institutions of higher-learning.  

But several veterans’ organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Student Veterans of America, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS),  and other have committed to oppose a floor vote on the bill unless major changes are made.

“It’s a great bill for bad schools,” tweeted Will Hubbard, vice president of government affairs at Student Veterans of America. 

Photo by Anthony Behar

Erosion of student protections

Veterans and advocates are upset about specific language in the bill that slashes Obama-era regulations that require colleges to prove their graduates were prepared for success in the workplace. Known as the “gainful employment rule,” the regulation stops the flow of federal aid to schools that routinely graduate students who aren’t quite ready to enter the workforce, and end up burdened with huge sums of student debt.

The rule was implemented after some high profile for-profit schools were found to be graduating students with a degree and massive student loans, but zero job prospects.

Some schools even went so far as to classify several graduates as working “in their field” when they were anything but.

But the PROSPER Act throws that rule outright which prohibits the government from issuing other regulations that judges the effectiveness of any school’s degree programs.

Advocates are worried that the rule’s elimination would both hurt student vets and waste taxpayer dollars.  

More Federal Dollars to Colleges

Another thing that vets are up in arms about is the so-called 90-10 rule, which says schools cannot receive more than 90 percent of their cash from federal student aid.  And since GI Bill cash doesn’t count as federal financial aid, a college can, in theory, get more than 90 percent of all revenue from the federal government.

Universities love to advertise which portion of their students qualify for financial aid. That’s because most college degrees come with an insane price tag. It seems a bit shady, but colleges can then artificially inflate their costs and receive a large portion of taxpayer dollars for each student, even when they end up charging most of their students far less than what they advertise.

That’s why the 90-10 rule makes veterans an especially sought after student population. They can be charged the full sticker price, and it don’t count against the 90 percent cap on federal aid cash.

Put another way, a college of questionable quality can get nearly all of its money from taxpayer dollars without having to report the progress of their students.

“For-profit colleges should not be funded solely by federal taxpayers, and keeping this rule ensures that schools offer education at competitive prices,” said Denise Rohan, national commander of The American Legion.

Instead of jettisoning the so-called 90-10 rule, Rohan said The Legion supports “amending this rule to include the GI Bill as federal aid so that veteran students are not targeted simply because they are not counted as part of the 90 percent.”  

Photo by E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Sipa USA

But the question remains, do student veterans really need all of these protections? Well, Congress must have thought so when they ensured veterans wouldn’t be taken advantage of when they wrote and passed the Forever GI Bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.  

The bill even allowed veterans impacted by private schools that shut down to get their GI Bill reinstated.

It’s not that we’re especially gullible in these situations, protecting student vets who want nothing more than to use the benefits they’ve earned seems like a no brainer.

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