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Defrauded Veterans Speak Out About Sham Colleges
& Need to Strengthen Accreditation & Licensing to Protect Students
WASHINGTON, DC—In the wake of being defrauded out of their GI Bill benefits, multiple veterans urged the federal government to better protect student veterans by creating a more rigorous authorization process for colleges and universities before they can take veterans’ hard-earned GI Bill benefits as tuition payments.
“Veterans are understandably angry when they learn that a sham ‘college’ that cheated them out of their GI Bill was known to be a scam but was nevertheless approved for federal tuition,” said Carrie Wofford, President of Veterans Education Services, a national nonprofit that fights for the GI Bill and the rights of veterans to utilize their education benefits. “The system is seriously broken. College accreditors and state authorization entities have been exposed by news reporters and law enforcement for approving sham ‘colleges’ with no teachers and no classrooms. We are pleased the Department is undertaking much-needed reform.”
Telling their stories last week to the U.S. Department of Education during a public hearing on proposed rulemaking to revise college accreditation and state authorization, multiple veterans called for reforms to the process by which the U.S. Department of Education authorizes and oversees colleges and universities to receive federal student aid – authorization relied upon by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in approving GI Bill and veterans’ education benefits. The veterans and their stories were brought to light by Veterans Education Services, continuing its long history of helping veterans tell their stories and advocating for changes to the system.
Air Force Veteran Tyler Dean, Wilmington, NC
“I complained to the Dean about the poor quality of the classes, and that I realized they did not have an engineering program accreditation even though they told me they were fully accredited. The Dean said that while they were not ABET accredited, if one of us would graduate they could get accredited, so I should just keep going.”
Leading the fight before the Department of Education was Veterans Education Success Vice President for Legal Affairs, Della Justice, who testified that, “the current system of state-based authorization… is unduly influenced by the regulated entities, and is designed primarily for purposes of administrative and financial convenience of the schools rather than protection of students and the federal taxpayers… Accreditation as it exists today is clearly failing in its federal responsibility to serve as a quality assurance tool, as evident in sudden closures and collapses of accredited institutions, government allegations of institutional deceptive practices, and prevalence of intolerable outcomes—e.g. low graduation rates, low job placement rates, high debt to earnings rates, and low repayment rates.”
This rulemaking opportunity comes on the heels of a bill filed by Congresswoman Delia Ramirez that would reinstate GI Bill benefits to veterans who were defrauded by a predatory school. Currently, when a veteran uses their GI Bill benefits at a college that defrauds them, they are not eligible to have those benefits restored, even when the government proves the fraud and recovers GI Bill funds from the school. This protection does exist for traditional students and their federal loans, however, under “borrower defense to repayment” authority at the U.S. Department of Education.Wilmington VES Testimony