Friday at Fort Stewart, President Obama signed an Executive Order to protect veterans, active-duty service-members and their families from the loss of their G.I. Bill benefits. This order is designed to protect our veterans and servicemembers, to stop some less than stellar for-profit colleges, who have made a great deal of money by signing up veterans, servicemembers and their families and delivering very little for the money.
There have been instances where severely brain injured wounded warriors were signed up for college courses; some of the less trustworthy online colleges have been promising wonderful careers in order to sign up veterans or servicemembers in worthless degree programs that are not providing a true education to students.
IAVA and MOAA applauded this initiative. IAVA (Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America) stated that “right now vets lack clear and consistent information about their education opportunities. Some for-profits are targeting vets through deceptive corroding and marketing practices.” Adm. Ryan, the president of MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) also discussed the “hundreds of thousands of returning veterans are taking advantage of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill… However, some schools see only dollar signs on the backs of our veterans.”
There are dozens of for-profit schools, some of whom are nothing more than a diploma mill. Some schools have been accused of shady practices, of very aggressive marketing and out and out falsehoods about their programs, claiming accreditation they do not have, and using counselors who are not counseling the students as to their progress and giving bad advice.
This Executive Order requires more transparency, not only in financial aid, but also in outcomes, in how many students graduate, are able to find jobs in their fields, and how likely students are to graduate. There is a new form (of course), the “Know Before You Owe” (currently in draft form) which is designed to help students learn about tuition, fees, financial aid, the estimated student loans debt and graduation rates.
This order also is trying to keep some of the worst offenders, who are aggressively marketing to military members off military installations, as well as preventing the online “improper recruiting practices.” These include using the soon-to-be-trademarked term G.I. Bill in a phony official looking website, steering the veteran, servicemember or family member to a certain group of schools, intimating that these are the only schools to which their benefits can be paid.
A centralized complaint system is also mandated by this EO – because there isn’t one yet! If a Veteran or servicemember has a complaint, they have to try to get this tracked through the VA or DoD or DoE, none of whom communicate about these cases. Better support, and better information for students is also part of the Executive Order.
When asked why the White House chose to use an Executive Order when there are various bills in Congress, a spokesperson stated that this type of initiative did not require Congressional oversight and that with the current climate on Capitol Hill, this was a faster way of protecting the GI Bill rights of the veterans, servicemembers and their families.
Photo credit: White House Photograph at DoD.mil