WASHINGTON – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a veteran and Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, today joined Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)and a group of Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to improve the current laws regarding educational benefits for our nation's military service members and veterans. The bill, the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act (MVEP),would modify the current 90/10 financial aid formula used by for-profit colleges to ensure federal funding utilized through the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Department of Defense's (DOD) Tuition Assistance program is counted as federal dollars rather than as private dollars. Joining Sens. Carper and Harkin in sponsoring the legislation are Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bipartisan companion bill in the House of Representatives this morning.
"We cannot simply stand by while our service members and veterans are being targeted and aggressively recruited by for-profit colleges that are just looking to make a quick buck off their hard-earned benefits," said Harkin. "Our obligation is to make sure our veterans and service members get an education that gives them an economic jumpstart, not to pad the profits of education companies that often overpromise, overcharge and under-deliver."
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Tuition Assistance program provide our nation's active service members and veterans with the most comprehensive benefits since World War II. However, under current law, revenues a school receives from DOD and VA financial aid programs – like the Tuition Assistance Program and the Post-9/11 GI Bill – are not counted the same as the Department of Education's (DOE) federal student aid. This has led to a series of problems among some bad actors within the for-profit education industry, where school recruiters seek to enroll as many veterans or military students as possible through unscrupulous recruitment tactics or dishonest marketing practices. Once enrolled, many of our service members and veterans using their federally funded benefits don't always receive a quality education, unfairly impacting not only our service members and veterans, but also American taxpayers.
The Military and Veterans Education Protection Act changes the 90/10 formula so that a for-profit school's revenues from DOD and VA programs are counted as federal dollars on the 90 percent side of the 90/10 formula rather than as private dollars on the 10 percent side. The for-profit school would then have to ensure that at least 10 percent of its revenue would come from truly non-federal, non-DOD, VA or DOE funding sources. The legislation would also amend current law so that if a school is out of compliance for two consecutive years, it would lose eligibility to accept not only new DOE dollars, but also new DOD and VA dollars. Schools will regain their eligibility once they take a series of steps toward compliance, which is unchanged from current law.
The Military and Veterans Education Protection Act is supported by several veterans and student groups including: Student Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, VetJobs, and the Military Officers Association of America.
"This legislation will protect the integrity and credibility of the new GI Bill and strengthen our nation's investment in our veterans who have given so much over the last 10 years to protect our freedom," said VADM (retired) Norb Ryan, National President of the Military Officers Association of America.
CARPER:"I believe we have a moral imperative to ensure that those who have sacrificed for our country obtain the best education possible, one that will equip them with the skills they need to find a good job, repay their college loans, and go on to live productive lives. Everything I do, I know I can do better. The same can be said about current educational programs that serve veteran and military students. We currently have some schools that serve veterans and service members' education needs very well – in essence they wear 'white hats.' Unfortunately, we also have some schools whose hats aren't so white and those are the schools we're trying to reach with this legislation. We must focus on how we can fix problems within the higher education system by better encouraging all schools to deliver a higher quality education to our military and veteran populations. This legislation is a responsible approach to an important issue, one that has been vetted with and is supported by many veterans and military service groups and leaders. We demand so much of our men and women in uniform. We must also demand more from the schools that serve our service members and veterans so we can get better results from this taxpayer funded program. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to move this important bill forward."
SPEIER: "We've got to ask the question – when these for-profits are taking taxpayer funds and attributing 22% to marketing, 37% to profit, and they have an abysmal 60-70% drop out rate – is this a good deal for taxpayers? Is this a good deal for students? This bill holds for-profits accountable and puts all taxpayer funded loans and benefits into the 90% side of the formula where they ought to be."
ROCKEFELLER: "The GI Bill was created to give veterans the chance to pursue training or additional education as they re-enter civilian life," said Sen. Rockefeller, former chairman and longest serving member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. "We must do what we can to prevent some schools from taking advantage of these men and women just so they can make a buck. It's only fair that our service members and veterans receive the same consumer protections as students on federal financial aid. Our veterans deserve these resources and more and I intend to do everything I can to help them."
JOHNSON: "This measure protects veterans and servicemembers by removing the incentive to target them with deceptive and aggressive marketing tactics. The bill represents a common-sense approach that corrects a loophole in the current law. It's good for the military community and ensures that taxpayer dollars are being wisely spent."
FRANKEN: "One of the greatest things that the GI Bill offers veterans in return for their service is the opportunity to get an education. It's our job to protect our veterans from the unscrupulous actions practiced by some for-profit colleges and ensure that at the end of the day they're getting the quality education that they deserve."
MCCASKILL: "We are a nation that treasures, honors and respects those who serve to protect our freedom. One way we keep that promise is supporting our servicemembers, veterans and their families in receiving an education so they can transition as seamlessly as possible from service to civilian life. Through this plan we will make certain that educational institutions share that commitment. We must ensure veterans cannot be taken advantage of and protect American tax dollars from being wasted."
HAGAN: "North Carolina has one of the largest populations of active duty service members and veterans in the country, and each of these courageous men and women deserve access to a quality education," said Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Unfortunately, some unscrupulous institutions are using taxpayer dollars on aggressive, and often misleading, recruiting practices in order to profit from the benefits afforded to our veterans through the Post 9-11 GI Bill. This legislation will help ensure federal funding goes to the people who've actually earned it—the heroic members of our military."