Last evening, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee approved important, bipartisan provisions by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) to preserve and protect veterans' education benefits from abuses by certain schools. The provisions are based on the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Carper and Webb in March, which would require schools participating in Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense educational programs to meet the same educational standards currently required for Pell Grants, federal student loans and other federal education programs. The bill also includes requirements for participating educational institutions to disclose graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to potential students. These provisions were approved by the committee and incorporated into the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 (S. 2241), which was also approved by the committee by voice vote.
"For years, the G.I. Bill has helped to strengthen our country's workforce by raising the skill levels of the Americans who have served in our military and are returning to civilian life," said Senator Carper, a veteran. "However, once our troops return home to seek higher education, they often do not have adequate resources to make determinations about quality institutions and adequate career paths. Achieving accreditation is generally viewed as the only universal standard for sorting reputable schools from disreputable ones. By extending accreditation protections currently in place for federal student aid recipients to veterans using the G.I. Bill, this measure takes needed steps towards strengthening the protections currently in place for veteran and military students seeking to use their taxpayer subsidized benefits. It also builds a stronger support network to help our servicemen and women navigate the complicated process of picking a school. I thank the Veterans' Affairs Committee for recognizing the importance of these provisions and incorporating them into the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 to make a strong bill even stronger. These efforts are steps in the right direction, but more work must be done. I will continue to work with Senator Webb, Senator Murray and our other colleagues on this critical issue to better protect our men and women in uniform."
The committee approved the following provision of Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act. These provisions were incorporated into the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 (S. 2241):
Require that all programs receiving funding from the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Tuition Assistance be Title IV eligible, which is already a requirement for schools receiving Pell Grants and 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 responsibilities of the State Approving Agencies by requiring them to conduct audits of schools, including unannounced audits and audits using risk-based approaches, and to report those findings to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a centralized complaints process to report instances of fraud, waste, and abuse by educational institutions.
Increase the transparency of participating 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.
Require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct compliance reviews of educational institutions in response to a triggering event, such as a rapid increase in the student dropout rate.
The provisions adopted in today's hearing, as well as the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 (S. 2241), would work with Sen. Carper's bill, the Military and Veterans Education Act of 2012, to make critical reforms to protect the integrity of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and military tuition assistance. It would require schools participating in educational assistance programs through both the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense to meet the same educational standards currently required for other federal funding.