The post was originally published by The Tennessean on August, 27, 2019.
Stakes are High for Veterans as Congress Debates the Higher Education Act
By Maj. Chris Davis, USMC
What drew me and so many others to join the military is the dedication to service and being a part of something greater than one’s self. As a Marine Corps officer, I have served alongside some of the nation’s most talented and bravest individuals.
The Marine Corps provided me an opportunity to earn my law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. During my time in Knoxville, I founded a non-profit student organization, Vols for Veterans, to provide assistance to veterans and mentored dozens of service members.
These interactions taught me the importance of leveraging our hard-earned GI Bill benefits to obtain the best education possible. My service in the Marine Corps, studying the law and brief work on Capitol Hill have led me to one unassailable conclusion: Now is the time to improve outcomes for veterans in higher education.
In Tennessee, we are fortunate to have leaders like U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. For decades he has championed higher-education policies that protect taxpayers and students. As secretary of education, he raised concerns about “institutions that produce mostly dropouts, not graduates, or produce graduates that are not employable in the fields for which they have been trained” and fought for higher standards. Today he is leading the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The last time the HEA was reauthorized was August 2008, two months after the post 9/11 GI Bill was passed. Since then predatory schools have changed their tactics to aggressively recruit military-connected students – some of whom I served with – exploiting their educational benefits. Alexander and Congress should make critical changes to the HEA to appropriately protect taxpayers and help students who’ve so honorably served our country.
First, he should close the 90/10 loophole that incentivizes for-profit colleges to target veterans for their GI Bill benefits. At present, veteran and military education benefits are not recognized as federal dollars, which allows for-profit colleges to count taxpayer-funded GI Bill benefits as part of their private funding. Second, we need to strengthen borrower defense rules so students can seek recourse for debt accrued at a college that abruptly shuts down. Third, he can publicly support the College Transparency Act, which would provide more public information to help students make better-informed decisions.
Tennessee taxpayers deserve to know that our GI Bill benefits, measured against the sacrifice of our warriors, go only to institutions that provide a quality education. They deserve to know that our nation’s warriors are using their benefits at a school that truly serves their interests. Veterans’ education is not a commodity to be bought and sold.
The GI Bill is a promise between Americans and the service members who protect our freedom from all threats. My friends and fellow veterans did not spill their blood in foreign lands to return home and be taken advantage of by collegiate con artists. I ask Alexander, as one of his final acts as my senator, to support this legislation and make good on that promise made years ago to so many years ago.
About Maj. Davis
Chris Davis is an active-duty major in the U.S. Marine Corps. He recently completed his law degree at the University of Tennessee College of Law via a Department of Defense educational incentive program. Upon completion of his training at Naval Justice School, he will be stationed at Camp Lejeune.