In the course of a two-year U.S. Senate Committee investigation into for-profit colleges, Senate staff uncovered a scam: Some predatory for-profit colleges were targeting veterans and servicemembers with aggressive, deceptive, and sometimes fraudulent recruiting in order to get access to the lucrative GI Bill and Defense Department Tuition Assistance.
Veterans were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and getting deceived into signing up for very low-quality schools, where graduates often cannot get the jobs they were promised. Vets were thereby losing their one shot at the GI Bill and the skills they needed to enter the civilian workforce and provide a better future for themselves and their families. The idea that education companies were seeking to trick veterans out of their hard-earned GI Bill is particularly galling because the GI Bill is the main source of America’s thanks to veterans and servicemembers who have served and sacrificed the most for America.
If a school is hassling you to sign up, watch out. Some make big promises, but don’t deliver. They usually cost much more than state universities and community colleges. But their classes are worse, and their graduates can’t get jobs. Why? Because they usually put very little money into education – only 17% on average at for-profit colleges. The rest goes to Wall Street profit, massive call centers of recruiters targeting vets to sign over their GI Bill, and Presidents’ salaries that can be 20 times higher than Harvard’s. In contrast, community colleges, state universities, and non-profit private liberal arts colleges dedicate nearly every dime to education and support services; they don’t set aside a dime for profit, they spend a tiny fraction on recruiting, and the average college president salary is under $400,000. Some for-profit colleges will even promise you a career as a lawyer, plumber, electrician, or medical expert – but too often you’ll find out after you graduate that you aren’t eligible to get a license. Be wise. Don’t get scammed.
Taxpayers should also be concerned. Nearly half of the nation’s student loan defaults come from for-profit colleges, even though they serve only 13 percent of students in America. And more than half of their students dropped out within a median of 4 months. In contrast, the state universities serving the most veterans have low dropout rates that are a small fraction of the dropout rates of the for-profit colleges taking the most GI Bill dollars. Meanwhile, taxpayers are charged twice as much to send a veteran to a for-profit college as to a community college or state university. Federal taxpayers are losing $32 billion dollars annually to for-profit colleges, and for-profit colleges are taking nearly 40 percent of the GI Bill and half of the Defense Department’s education aid for active duty students. And what are taxpayers getting in return? Too often debt and default without a degree – or with a worthless degree.
In 2011, veterans advocates banded together with Senate staff to propose and demand a Presidential Executive Order and legislation to force schools to disclose the true facts about what they offered and to arm federal agencies with the tools necessary to investigate and prevent deception, fraud, and abuse. That effort led to successful enactment of:
Executive Order 13607, “Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members,” issued April 27, 2012; and
Public Law 112-249, “An Act to amend Title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy to improve outreach and transparency to veterans and members of the Armed Forces through the provision of information on institutions of higher learning, and for other purposes” enacted on January 10, 2013.
In February 2013, shortly after the federal legislation was signed into law, Veterans Education Success was founded – in collaboration with the nation’s major veterans’ leaders – to ensure effective implementation of the Executive Order and legislation, and to find new ways to stop scams and help veterans find the high-quality colleges they deserve.
Get the facts. Decide for yourself.