Thank goodness the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to stop unscrupulous colleges and universities from preying on veterans trying to use their GI Bill education benefits.
It’s too bad that the Trump administration, most notably U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is charging ahead in the opposite direction, trying to dismantle regulations and oversight of these predatory schools.
The VA has put five schools on notice that if they don’t change their ways within 60 days, they will be barred from enrolling new students using the GI Bill. Drawing on investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and several states, the VA says these schools used aggressive, misleading sales tactics to entice veterans and their families to enroll. The schools gave prospective students false impressions of their programs and the job prospects of their graduates.
Men and women who have served are favorite targets of predatory schools, especially for-profit colleges and universities. Veterans are hoping to build new careers. They have some reliable money available through the GI Bill. And GI Bill benefits don’t count toward a requirement that no more than 90% of the revenue of a for-profit institution can come from federal funds. One of the five put on notice, the for-profit University of Phoenix chain, has been the largest recipient of GI Bill benefits for more than 10 years.
This latest action by the VA is encouraging. It’s not encouraging, however, that DeVos and the Trump administration continue to dismantle Obama-era policies designed to protect students, including veterans, from being defrauded by for-profit schools.
Congress has just delivered a clear rebuke to DeVos. Ten Republican U.S. senators joined Democrats in voting for a resolution opposing DeVos’ new rule that makes it harder for people who have been defrauded by for-profit schools to have their student loans forgiven. The U.S. House has passed a similar measure. President Donald Trump is considered likely to veto it, even though veterans groups have praised the resolution.
The Obama administration had made getting such relief easier in 2016, but DeVos has said that policy was too lax and gave the borrowers “free money.” She had the U.S. Department of Education stop processing applications for loan forgiveness. Now her new rule imposes standards that are harder to meet, sets a three-year time limit on filing claims and says each case should be considered individually even if there’s strong evidence of a pattern of misconduct at a particular school.
Also last year, the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era rule designed to cut off federal funding for for-profit colleges with a record of leaving students with heavy debt. The Obama administration had aggressively tackled the problem of fraud in for-profit chain schools. Some, including Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, folded.
It’s bad enough when a school misleads any prospective students, taking advantage of their hopes to better themselves. When the hopeful students earned GI Bill benefits by putting their lives on the line for our country, it’s even worse.
Good for the VA, and for those in Congress who voted the right way. Shame on DeVos.