For-profit schools have aggressively recruited veterans since 2008.
A company that officials say preyed on veterans for their education benefits by steering them to for-profit colleges has agreed to pay $2.5 million to 20 states and turn over its website to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced the consumer protection settlement June 27 against QuinStreet Inc. The company ran the website GIBill.com.
The states alleged GIBill.com misled military veterans by giving the impression schools listed on its site were the only ones where education benefits could be used. The colleges were primarily for-profit.
QuinStreet says it doesn’t consider the website misleading, but reached the agreement to provide greater clarity.
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Conway, who has become a national leader in the push for more accountability and regulation in the for-profit education industry, chastised for-profit schools for using GIBill.com to push service members toward their colleges.
“This company preyed on our veterans who received educational benefits as a result of their military service to our country,” Conway said. “The actions were unconscionable and purposefully drove veterans to for-profit colleges who were perhaps more interested in getting their hands on the federal benefits than in educating our soldiers and their families.”
Other states involved are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York,Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Consumer advocates and attorneys general involved in the QuinStreet settlement said for-profit colleges — many with large online education operations — have ramped up efforts to push veterans to for-profit schools since 2008, when Congress enacted the Post-9/11 GI Bill, making billions available for service members and their families.
Under terms of the agreement, QuinStreet will have to shut down any website that includes “GI Bill” in its domain name.
“These new consumer protections will help ensure that veterans looking online to learn more about the GI Bill will find accurate information about the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifices for our country,” said Holly Petraeus, assistant director for Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Conway helped lead a charge in Kentucky for an oversight bill that will alter the State Board for Proprietary Education to regulate for-profit schools. The board existed before the new law was introduced, but six of the 11 board members were from for-profit programs.
The new measure would limit the number of for-profit employees on the board to four.
The for-profit oversight law even received backing from the state’s career college industry. Candance Bensel, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Career Colleges and School, described the legislation as “a good bill that improves protection for students without imposing burdens that interfere with the opportunity for Kentuckians to pursue a career education.”
Bensel added that “much has been made of a few anecdotal cases highlighting areas that needed to be addressed” in for-profit education.