December 9, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carrie Wofford (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Tanya Ang (email@example.com)
Veterans Education Success hails Senate passage of landmark legislation to protect student veterans and ensure better oversight of GI Bill colleges
Veterans Education Success proposed, and provided significant input on, key legislation
Tonight, the U.S. Senate cleared — on hotline (unanimous consent) — a major omnibus package of veterans legislation, the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020. Pre-cleared by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in bicameral, bipartisan negotiations, and therefore bringing the promise of speedy passage by the House on suspension of the rules, this major package includes a landmark bill that Veterans Education Success proposed, and provided significant input on, over the past two years, with House passage a year ago and bipartisan, bicameral negotiations over the past year to solidify a final bill.
“We are extremely grateful to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees for their bipartisan leadership in collaborating together on this important legislation,” said Vice President Tanya Ang. “Bipartisanship is alive and well in Congress when it comes to veterans legislation.”
“This landmark legislation will significantly weed out predatory colleges that seek to take advantage of veterans,” said President Carrie Wofford. “This bill was a long time coming and we profoundly thank the Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees for hearing our concerns and stepping up to protect veterans and their hard-earned GI Bill from waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Contained within the larger omnibus veterans package, the Protect the GI Bill Act:
- Requires risk-based reviews of schools: Previously, schools like ITT Tech and Corinthian remained eligible for GI Bill funds even after federal and state legal action, up to the day they shuttered. A risk-based review is now triggered if a school is under Heightened Cash Monitoring Level 2 or provisional certification status at the Education Department, any punitive action by any federal or state entity, faces the loss or risk of loss of accreditation, or has converted from for-profit to nonprofit status. Schools that fail to comply or to secure affirmation following the review will be disapproved.
- Strengthens the ban on deceptive and misleading advertising by defining misrepresentations (using Education Department definitions) and covering 21st-century advertising methods and lead generator companies; forcing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to act within strict timelines, create a process for school rebuttal and reinstatement, and ensure that VA’s action is sufficiently deterrent, the school has hired a third-party auditor, put procedures in place to prevent repeat offenses, removed pressure on recruiters and repudiated its practices to all employees; and empowering State approving agencies to investigate and make preliminary findings. Repeat offenders face at least suspension of new enrollments. Third-time repeat offenders will be disapproved.
- Restores VA education benefits to students whose school closed or was disapproved so long as they have transferred fewer than 12 credits. This extends a 2017 law that had covered only the time period when ITT Tech and Corinthian closed. It also covers Veteran Readiness & Employment (“Voc Rehab”) tuition aid.
- Stops GI Bill to subpar college programs that are not approved for and participating in Title IV at the Education Department or “at risk of losing accreditation.” When Argosy was cut off by the Education Department for failing to disburse Title IV funds to students, VA continued to send GI Bill benefits to the school because of an automatic “deemed approved” status for accredited schools. Also requires law schools to be properly accredited.
- Protects students from VA debt collection for overpaid tuition: Currently, VA claws back tuition overpayments from students, even though the school received the tuition, a problem affecting 1 in 4 GI Bill students, and more common at for-profit schools. It happened partly because VA sent the entire semester of tuition after a veteran sat for one day of class, before the add/drop period, incentivizing predatory schools to try to get “just one day” of enrollment. This law shifts the burden onto schools to repay VA any tuition overpayments. It also stops the overpayment problem by requiring schools to certify the student’s enrollment both upon enrollment and again after the school’s add/drop period and by requiring students to re-verify their course load each month.
- Requires clear information to prospective students about the true costs and estimated loan debts, graduation and job placement rates, and acceptance of transfer credit; ensures students approve of enrollment in a course and are not automatically enrolled; requires schools to provide federal student loans prior to institutional loans, accommodate short absences due to service, stop same-day recruitment, stop more than 3 unsolicited recruiting contacts, and provide a point of contact for VA students; prohibits incentive compensation; and more.
Other provisions include:
- Sunsets the Montgomery GI Bill, which is less generous than the Post-9/11 GI Bill, in 2030. Also gives servicemembers 6 months before they have to decide whether to pay in to the Montgomery GI Bill.
- Extends in-state tuition at public colleges to veterans, regardless of their residency and date of separation from the military.
- Extends COVID-19 emergency relief authority, including allowing VA to extend benefits, to allow withdrawals due to COVID not to be charged against a student’s GI Bill entitlement, to prevent Montgomery GI Bill eligibility from lapsing, to ensure school closures result in GI Bill restoration to the veteran, and other COVID-related protections.
- Allows State Approving Agencies (SAAs) to conduct outreach activities only if they have conducted all risk-based surveys of schools.
- Extends GI Bill to servicemembers on active duty pursuing a program of education on more than a half-time basis.
- Includes foster children as dependents eligible for GI Bill.
- Expands the Fry Scholarship to children of certain deceased servicemembers.
- Expands STEM funding for health care training and stops counting STEM funding against the 48-month cap on veterans’ education benefits.
- Extends work-study to veterans working in Congressional offices.
- Removes the 12-year cap on Veteran Readiness & Employment (“Voc Rehab”).
- Extends Yellow Ribbon to overseas programs