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Post-9/11 GI Bill Allows For-Profit Colleges to Take Advantage of Veterans

Less than four years have passed and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a comprehensive veterans’ educational program that is likened to a full-ride scholarship, is under fire. 

A loophole in a federal statute known as the 90/10 rule, a law that requires for-profit colleges to receive at least 10% of their revenues from non-federal sources, has led to deceptive and aggressive recruiting tactics targeting military veterans and servicemembers.

Questionable recruiting tactics were unveiled in the PBS Frontline program "Educating Sergeant Pantzke." In the segment, several veterans were allegedly misled by for-profit college recruiters with grandiose promises of top salaries and post-graduation success in highly sought after companies. 

Media reports, including the PBS program, and initiatives led by veteran service organizations prompted certain members of Congress to act. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, launched an investigation into the for-profit higher education sector. The investigation turned up some alarming facts, including a point system for recruiting veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents eligible for lucrative benefits.

According to the HELP committee report published in December, 2010:

“Congress may have unintentionally subjected this new generation of veterans to the worst excesses of the for-profit industry: manipulative and misleading marketing campaigns, educational programs far more expensive than comparable public or non-profit programs, and a lack of needed services.”

Recently, legislation in both the House and Senate have been introduced to close the 90/10 loophole by including military and veterans’ educational programs as federal sources. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), introduced the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act, a bill that would close the 90/10 loophole. A related bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.): H.R. 4055.

Veterans’ affairs usually conjure thoughts of bipartisanship, but this issue appears to be an outlier. The House bill has only one Republican co-sponsor out of 12; the Senate bill has no Republican co-sponsors. Nonetheless, this issue demands support regardless of political affiliation. A continuation of political apathy leads to military veterans becoming victims due to an underlying theme in the for-profit, higher education sector: greed.

Politics aside, closing the 90/10 loophole remains the logical next step in curbing the incentive of for-profit schools to maximize profits by aggressively recruiting military veterans and their family members. Without changing the 90/10 rule, consider military veterans walking dollar signs subjected to false promises and the disillusionment of an American dream found in the virtual halls of online, for-profit colleges.    

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