Veterans’ advocacy groups demanded at a recent Congressional hearing that for-profit colleges stop flooding military veterans’ eMail inboxes, Facebook newsfeeds, and Twitter accounts with advertisements, saying the ad campaigns “mock the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.”
A Washington, D.C.-based organization called Veterans for Common Sense released an extensive statement submitted to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs May 16 as members of Congress considered an executive order from President Obama meant to provide more college information to military veterans.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) also lent its support to Obama’s executive action, which would trademark the term “GI Bill” so it’s not used in deceiving online and TV ads.
“We’re going to bring an end to the aggressive—and sometimes dishonest—recruiting that takes place,” Obama said during an April 27 speech at Fort Stewart Army post in Georgia.
Congressional Republicans rallied to defend the for-profit college industry, calling the president’s executive order unnecessary.
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and a recipient of campaign funds from for-profit schools, called Obama’s executive order “an unnecessary attack on the free market” and an act of “imperial fiat.”
Veterans for Common Sense told Capitol Hill lawmakers that Obama’s order was a “step in the right direction” that “will keep predatory recruiters off installations, prevent misleading advertisements using the term ‘GI Bill,’ and orders further vigilance in acting against those for-profits that abuse or violate laws and regulations.”
Along with electronic advertisements bombarding soldiers’ inboxes and social media accounts, the veterans advocacy group cited for-profit college recruiters signing up Marines with brain injuries and sailors who are not told that their for-profit college credits aren’t transferable to many traditional schools.
“This is not political, it is not about free enterprise, it is about right and wrong,” the group said in a statement.
Eight of the top 10 recipients of veterans’ GI Bill educational benefits are for-profit colleges, according to federal statistics. Most of that federal GI Bill money is used for marketing and advertising, according to a report from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The federal government spends about twice as much for veterans who attend for-profit schools when compared to veterans who take classes at public nonprofit colleges.
PVA representatives who submitted a statement to members of Congress last week said the group was particularly concerned that for-profit recruiters did not disclose graduation rates or post-graduation employment rates while targeting veterans with a variety of injuries.
“Some of these institutions aggressively solicit veterans with combat stress-related impairments, severe traumatic brain injuries or other physical disabilities,” PVA said.
The American Legion’s National Economic Commission also came out for Obama’s executive order, as did the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).
Jennifer Steele, a policy researcher for the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank funded in part by the federal government, told legislators that studies showed that military veterans were not duped into attending for-profit schools.
“Some students in for-profit institutions mentioned that they had deliberately sought an environment that catered to working adults,” Steele said in a statement, adding that many veterans are drawn to for-profits’ online course selections. “They were also drawn to the career-focused curricula of the for-profits and the ability to avoid broad-based requirements and electives that did not pertain directly to their career plans.”
Among military veterans who attempted to transfer online and in-person course credits from private for-profit schools last year, 60 percent said they were satisfied with the often-complicated process, higher than the satisfaction rates at public two-year and four-year campuses, according to RAND.
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