Following last night's PBS Frontline segment documenting the mistreatment of America's veterans by some for-profit colleges, a group of Senators condemned the practices brought to light. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.),) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), called for greater oversight of military education benefit dollars in order to protect our veterans and military personnel from abuses in the for-profit higher education industry.
The Frontline segment comes after a report released by Senator Harkin in December detailed the massive growth in military education benefits flowing into for-profit colleges. Last year, $439 million went to the 15 publicly traded for-profit higher education companies, accounting for 25 percent of all Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. A yearlong HELP Committee investigation of the for-profit education industry has revealed that at many schools more than half of students drop out within a year, with no evidence that military students are faring better.
"We ask so much of our men and women in uniform and their families. It is important that we ensure that our service members and our veterans are receiving a quality education, and that the taxpayer dollars used to pay for these benefits are not being wasted," said Sen. Carper. "Over the past year, several reports have described troubling stories of how some schools, including a few for-profit colleges, have exploited our student veterans and military personnel -- including engaging in unethical recruitment practices and saddling these students with unnecessary debt. I believe we have a moral imperative to ensure that the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education are doing everything they can to prevent these kinds of abuses. We need to continue to examine the quality of education that our troops and veterans are receiving, to protect not just our federal dollars, but also the well-being and future of our students. I appreciate Frontline's work in highlighting this imperative issue and I will continue to work with Senator Harkin and my colleagues to investigate this growing problem further."
"Frontline's findings are deeply disturbing and only serve to underscore the findings of our investigation: many of these subprime colleges are aggressively enrolling veterans and collecting their hard-earned education benefit with little concern for whether they succeed," said Sen. Harkin. "We need to step up oversight of military education benefits to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform receive a quality education."
"The reports that GI Bill veterans are being taken advantage of by some bad actors in the for-profit education industry are unacceptable," said Sen. Rockefeller. "Our vets deserve better. The dubious recruitment policies and poor completion rates at these institutions are deeply troubling. We cannot let the abuses of a few blemish the important and good parts of the new GI Bill. Veterans deserve high quality training and opportunities to continue their education after their sacrifices and I intend to fight for policies that will give them just that. We need to question why for-profit colleges are so much higher cost -- Frontline certainly has demonstrated they are not always worthy of the higher price tag."
"I have said time and again that I am for choice and opportunity in higher education. We're the nation that invented the community college, and the night school for our returning vets after World War II," Sen. Mikulski said. "What I am not for is gouging and profiteering, particularly on the backs of our service men and women using their hard-earned GI Benefits. The practices uncovered in the Frontline segment, like the ones we have been finding throughout our Senate investigations, are deeply disturbing."
"Profiteering at the expense of our veterans and America' taxpayers is the latest scandal involving for-profit schools as Frontline accurately reports," said Sen. Durbin. "Does Congress have the will to attack these well-heeled for-profit rip-off schools? To date, with a few exceptions, Congress is in full retreat."
"Exploiting veterans by abusing hard-earned education benefits is absolutely unconscionable and unacceptable," said Sen. Blumenthal. "A for-profit school or anyone else who makes false promises to a veteran not only deceives the individual but disservices the nation, and should be held accountable. This investigative special shines a much-needed light on the scurrilous practices by these schools that have led to extraordinary waste and that must be addressed."