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Mr. WEBB. Mr. President, today, I am introducing The Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012. This bi-partisan bill will ensure that all educational institutions receiving funding from the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Tuition Assistance educational programs are governed by the appropriate quality standards.
I am pleased to be joined in this initiative by Senators HARKIN, CARPER, MCCASKILL and Senator SCOTT BROWN.
I have been working on this legislation for several months. It includes many recommendations made by Veterans service organizations, military organizations and various GAO reports on the need to improve the accountability and oversight of educational institutions.
This past year marked the second-year anniversary of the implementation of the landmarks Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which I introduced on my first day in office. I take pride in saying that we have been able to provide the proper investment in the future of those who, since 9/11, have given so much to this country.
History demonstrates clearly that well educated veterans not only have an easier transition and readjustment experience, but also boast higher income levels and enjoy a better quality of life.
Since 2009, more than 1.1 million servicemembers and veterans have applied to receive their new benefits and nearly 700,000 have received benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
For these reasons, I believe that we in the Congress need to do all we can to ensure that we are preserving the integrity of the greatest GI Bill our veterans and military members have ever had.
Concern with waste in the for-profit sector is not a new issue. If we look back in history, 5 years following the creation of the World War II GI Bill in 1944, we saw that more than 5,000 for-profit schools were created. Many of these schools had questionable outcomes and catered exclusively to veterans.
The World War II GI Bill was almost derailed because of the thousands of for-profit colleges created overnight targeting veterans. Due to the concern with the reported waste and abuse in the system, the Vietnam GI Bill tuition provision became a flat monthly stipend.
Recent data shows that 8 of the 10 largest recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are for-profit institutions. Many of these schools have more than doubled the amount of Post-9/11 GI Bill dollars they received from 2009 2011.
The growth in this sector has been tremendous in the past couple of years. Between 1998 and 2008, for-profit schools grew 225 percent.
Last month, the Department of Defense released new data showing that for-profit colleges received half of all military tuition assistance dollars--$280 million out of $563 million spent last year on this program.
In 2009, the 15 publicly traded for-profit education companies spent $3.7 billion on marketing. A disproportionate share of this money is going to marketing and recruitment of veterans into poorly performing for-profit schools, and the results of the Veteran's Administration data on the GI Bill reflect this.
The problem is not necessarily the growth of the for-profit sector. There are some for-profit institutions that are providing our students a great education. But with huge Federal dollars being spent in this sector, we owe it to the taxpayers and to our veterans to carefully monitor and provide adequate oversight. Even more important, we owe it to the men and women who served that the GI benefits they have earned will not be lost or squandered on an education that fails to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.
In light of these issues, I have introduced the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012. My legislation requires schools participating in educational assistance programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to meet the same educational standards currently required for other federal funding, such as the Pell Grant. This bill strengthens the responsibilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense to assist individuals in making an informed decision to further their continued academic success.
This legislation will increase transparency of information about educational institutions, provide critical services to assist students in the decision-making process and throughout their career, and promote interagency information sharing by requiring all programs receiving funding from Tuition Assistance and Post-9/11 GI Bill be Title IV eligible. Title IV eligibility strengthens the requirements programs must meet in order to receive Federal funding.
By also increasing the transparency of educational institutions by requiring them to provide information to potential students on graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to ensure that individuals have the information necessary in choosing the best academic program.
By expanding the training and outreach responsibilities of the State Approving Agencies by requiring them to conduct outreach activities to veterans and members of the Armed Forces, requiring State Approving Agencies to conduct audits of schools and to report those findings to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
By requiring that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense develop a centralized complaints process for individuals to report instances of misrepresentation, fraud, waste and abuse and other complaints against educational institutions.
By requiring that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense provide counseling to individuals before they use their benefits.
By increasing greater coordination between the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Department of Education by requiring information sharing among these agencies.
This is a bill that I hope both sides of the aisle will support. It not only aims at preserving the greatest educational benefits for our veterans and military students but it also ensures that our Federal dollars are being spent on quality education.
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