Update: New GI Bill 2.0 and For-Profit Colleges

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that 36 percent of tuition benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill are going to for-profit colleges. According to the paper, “the huge program has turned into a bonanza of another kind for the many commercial colleges in the United States that have seen their military revenues surge.” This report comes on the heels of a GAO investigation, which recently exposed a few bad apples in the for-profit school industry that were engaged in predatory recruitment tactics.

IAVA believes that any school or business that takes advantages of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran should be held accountable for predatory tactics and violations. In 2008, IAVA led the fight to pass the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the largest investment in veterans’ education since World War II. We are committed to working with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Education to ensure every veteran can use the educational benefits he or she has earned. However, we are concerned that recent media reports like The New York Times’ piece fail to accurately examine the GI Bill issue and discredit pending legislation that will actually help limit abuses by schools.

New GI Bill 2.0 (S.3447), which the Senate could pass as early as today, will reign in abuses by for-profit colleges by closing various tuition loopholes and leveling the playing field between for-profit and nonprofit institutions. In fact, The New York Times article only reinforces the urgency of passing New GI Bill 2.0 during this lame duck session. Specifically, some issues the legislation will address include:

  • New GI Bill 2.0 closes a tuition loophole that allows for-profit schools to charge and receive upwards of $120,000 in tuition benefits in some states.
  • Many disabled veterans are currently denied a living allowance because they can only take online courses and some of these courses are offered at public nonprofit schools (like the University of Maryland).
  • New GI Bill 2.0 strengthens the VA’s ability to review and deny approval of for-profit schools that engage in predatory practices.

The New York Times article also claims that “the industry’s powerful lobbying forces are pushing for even more, including a change in the law that would allow veterans who sign up exclusively for online classes to also get government housing subsidies, even if they live at home, which would make online education even more attractive.” However, the article fails to acknowledge that this provision is supported by all of the major veterans and education groups because it allows disabled veterans and single parents who are attending online courses to achieve their dream of a college degree. Many public schools also offer online programs as well as private nonprofits, so this improvement to the New GI Bill will help all student veterans.

Another issue that New GI Bill 2.0 will address concerns state tuition caps. A loophole in the current law allows schools that manipulate their tuition/fees structure to be reimbursed for over $100,000/year in tuition/fees, while the average veteran receives no more than $17,000/year. New GI Bill 2.0 closes these loopholes by abolishing the inequitable state tuition cap system and replacing it with a reasonable tuition reimbursement plan that puts for-profit and nonprofit schools on a level playing field.

Finally, New GI Bill 2.0 will also empower the VA to directly investigate and deny approval to for-profit schools. Currently, this power is left solely to the state approving agencies. New GI Bill 2.0 will expand the VA’s ability to use the state approving agencies to conduct additional compliance and oversight activities.

Recently, enrollment in traditional colleges and universities has been climbing steadily across the country. It’s not surprising that veteran enrollment in for-profit schools has also surged since the passage of the New GI Bill. But The New York Time’s comparison of how much money has been spent on public schools versus on for-profit privates schools is like comparing apples to oranges. Today, the average tuition benefits for private students attending nonprofit and for-profit institutions are nearly the same. As a leading proponent of New GI Bill 2.0, IAVA believes veterans’ education is a critical issue for the national dialogue, particularly at a time when jobless among new veterans is higher than the national average. As a country, we have an opportunity to put a new generation of veterans on the path to a college education – we can only achieve this if the facts are reported responsibly.

For the latest updates on the New GI Bill 2.0, follow IAVA on Twitter @NewGIBill.