House Republicans Pick For Profit Schools Over Veterans in GI Bill Fight

Sat Jul 26, 2014 02:18:32AM

Twin Towers on fire shortly before crumbling to the groundBy: Michael Foran
Laws that have broad bi-partisan support come few and far between, but the GI Bill that was passed in 1944 is one of those few bills that will bring together both the most ardently conservative and die hard liberal because it was a law designed to thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. The law provides veterans with access to low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to assist veterans who want to start their own business, one year of unemployment benefits if a returning veteran struggles to find a job, and most importantly, tuition and living expenses for veterans to attend a college or university. Very few people will argue with any of these initiatives, but is it any surprise that someone will try to game the system to benefit themselves? This is what we are seeing with the rise of for-profit colleges and their ceaseless drive to enroll as many returning veterans on their rolls as possible.

The original GI bill dates back to the post WWII era and the country's desire to thank the veterans who gave up so much to fight for our country. Officially called the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the GI Bill specified the various benefits every United States soldier who serves in the military for two or more years is eligible to receive. It almost failed to pass the Congress because the two houses were at odds over a variety of issues, but the House and Senate were eventually able to work out their disagreements and pass a bill that provides a variety of benefits for the soldiers who fight in the foreign wars America becomes involved in.

September 11th brought about a new wave of veterans who volunteered to serve our country and with it brought about the necessity to update the GI Bill to keep up with the rapid changes the educational system in America has been going through in recent years. After years of debate and negotiations, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, better known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, was passed into law. The law brought about badly needed reforms to the original GI Bill and ensured that our Veterans have greater flexibility and choice in their collegiate or trade school they choose. Unfortunately, the private college system in America saw an opportunity and decided to target as many returning veterans as possible, not in the name of educating them, but in the name of greatly expanding their bottom line.

For profit colleges are aggressively and deceptively recruiting veterans to attend their institutions. California, America's most populous state, has two out of every three GI Bill dollars spent on for-profit schools. The fact that for profit schools are competing for federal funds is not in and of itself a scandal. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the real scandal is that upwards of forty percent, or $638 million, of GI Bill payments to the state of California were given to institutions that have failed state financial aid standards at least once in the past four years. These veterans are then sold half-truths about how long they will need to attend school and are sometimes graduating with a worthless degree from a school that is not accredited.

Returning veterans are a prime target for these for profit colleges and it is time for us to come together in a bipartisan way and speak with one voice on this issue. Unfortunately, Rep. John Kline and House Republicans decided for profit colleges gaming the system isn't an issue that needs to be discussed further. His committee ruled a Democratic led effort to close the loophole had nothing to do with the greater issue of Federal Aid and ruled their amendment out of order. The full committee then ruled 20-13 to quash the amendment.

This should be something both the left and right can agree on. Our veterans deserve a quality and legitimate education. We Americans need to fight back against those who would rather hand out billions to for profit colleges with no questions asked and start demanding that these colleges receiving taxpayer dollars ensure they give our veterans the quality education they deserve.
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