Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), author of the landmark Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, today renewed his call for quick enactment of his bipartisan legislation to preserve the program, citing newly released findings of abuses by certain for-profit schools. A report this week by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee outlined widespread problems throughout the sector uncovered by a two-year committee investigation.
Senator Webb's Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012 (S.2179), co-sponsored by 16 senators and endorsed by more than a dozen national veterans service organizations, would make critical reforms to protect the integrity of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and military tuition assistance. Among other provisions, the legislation would require schools participating in these programs to meet the same educational standards currently required for Title IV federal programs, such as Pell Grants. It would also require educational institutions to disclose graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to potential students.
"Some for-profit educational institutions are providing our students a good education, but abuses by certain institutions could put the integrity of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program at risk," said Senator Webb. "With the significant federal dollars being spent, we owe it to taxpayers and our veterans to carefully monitor and provide adequate oversight, so that we have standardization among the institutions who are receiving federal monies to educate our veterans."
"I introduced the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill my first day in office, starting with a simple concept: that we owe those people who have served since 9/11 the same type of quality educational benefits that those who served in World War II received," said Senator Webb, who served as a combat Marine in Vietnam and later as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "I'm very proud to say that we were able to do that and it continues to be a great investment in the future of our country through the people who have served."
The HELP Committee released the following statistics related to military and veterans education benefits from its investigation:
* The share of VA benefits going to for-profit colleges far exceed the share of federal Department of Education financial aid going to the schools.
* In fiscal year 2011, for-profit colleges collected one of every two DoD Tuition Assistance dollars, totaling $280 million.
* During fiscal year 2011, for-profit colleges received $40 million, or 61 percent, of the $65 million Military Spouse Career Advancement Account Program (MyCAA) funds disbursed.
* During the first two years of availability of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits, for-profit companies collected $1.6 billion, or 37 percent, of the program's total benefits dispersed.
* For-profit colleges trained 25 percent of veterans during the first two years of the program, but received 37 percent of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds. In contrast, public schools trained 59 percent of veterans, but collected only 39 percent of the programs funds.
The full report of the HELP Committee investigation is available here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=cdd6e130-5056-9502-5dd2-e4d005721cb2
Senator Webb's Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012 would
* Require that all programs receiving funding from Tuition Assistance and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill be Title IV eligible, which is already a requirement for schools receiving other types of federal funding. Title IV eligibility requirements include accreditation by a Department of Education-approved accrediting agency, an undergraduate withdrawal rate for all students of no more than 33% for new schools, and mandated reviews by the Department of Education if a school has high dropout or default rates, which could lead to sanctions or other penalties.
* Expand the training responsibilities of the State Approving Agencies by requiring them to conduct outreach activities to veterans and members of the Armed Forces, to conduct audits of schools, and to report those findings to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
* Require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense to develop a centralized complaints process to report instances of misrepresentation, fraud, waste, and abuse, and other complaints against educational institutions.
* Increase the transparency of educational institutions by requiring them to disclose graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to potential students to ensure that they can choose the best academic program for their needs.
* Increase interagency coordination by requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Education to improve information sharing.
Signed into law on June 30, 2008, Senator Webb's Post-9/11 G.I. Bill offers returning service members up to 36 months of benefits including payment of tuition, fees and educational costs, plus a monthly housing allowance while enrolled in full-time training. As of June 1, 2012, more than 1.2 million individuals have applied for this benefit and the VA has paid $19.5 billion for more than 745,000 beneficiaries of the program.