New Grant Program Established; Legislation Planned; Information Campaign Launched; Possible Legal Action Contemplated
First Round of Grants Announced; New Applications Being Accepted
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This Veterans Day, Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and their advocates are launching a counter-attack against for-profit colleges, many of which they say have been using misleading claims to enroll veterans in expensive programs that actually provide little value, but drain their GI Bill education benefits and leave them heavily in debt.
The effort includes a public information campaign to better-inform active-duty service members and returning veterans of their educational options, advocate for federal and state legislation to curb abuses, create a grant program to assist veterans, and take legal action to recover government funds.
The recently established Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund (VSLRF) today announced the first round of grants to assist otherwise financially responsible veterans and qualifying family members, who have incurred excessive education loans to attend for-profit institutions. The grants will help veterans dig out from under the debt burden imposed by the for-profit colleges.
Eleven grants of up to $5,000 were awarded to veterans from seven states: Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Applications for a second round of grants are currently being accepted through Dec. 1 at http://sms.scholarshipamerica.org/veterans-student-loan-relief.
A new web site – www.knowbeforeyouenroll.org – has also been set up to provide current service members and veterans with information they need to make informed choices about their education, and allow them to file complaints.
"Many for-profit colleges are treating Iraq and Afghanistan veterans very poorly and without respect, taking advantage of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that provide federal financial assistance for returning service members to help them with their education," said retired Marine Col. Patrick Uetz, Director of University of San Diego School of Law's Initiative to Protect Student Veterans. "But veterans and their allies are beginning to battle back – ensuring our veterans receive accurate intel to make informed decisions, as well as fighting for legislative and policy change on their behalf are paramount among our objectives. "
Advocates plan to make a push in the post-election session of Congress to pass legislation similar to a bill recently signed by California Governor Jerry Brown that closed various loopholes for-profit schools have exploited to engage in misleading marketing practices.
Attorneys General in nearly 20 states, led by Kentucky AG Jack Conway, are also mounting a coordinated effort to crack down on for-profit colleges' predatory practices.
In 2008, Congress passed a Post-9/11 GI Bill to mirror the one that helped millions of returning heroes from WWII by offering grants and loans to veterans to pursue a college education in a profession or trade. The WWII GI Bill is credited with helping to build America's middle class.
Many for-profit colleges use hard-sell tactics that are catching returning veterans and active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines living on military bases unaware of the high cost and low success rates of these institutions. They sell empty promises of a high quality education and "guaranteed" jobs and pressure veterans into signing long-term contracts on the spot that ultimately exhaust their GI Bill benefits and leave them empty handed – without a degree, without transferable credits and heavily in debt.
The average annual price of a certification program at a for-profit college was nearly $20,000 in 2010 compared to an average of $4,000 at a public college. The for-profits charge as much as $35,000 for an associate's degree program, compared to $8,000 at a public college. Nationwide, nearly 70 percent of all students attending for-profit colleges do not graduate, and most of the credits earned at these colleges do not transfer to traditional colleges.
A scathing report from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released in July 2012, documented these abuses and found that more than a third of the education benefits awarded under new GI Bill benefits are being used at for-profit colleges.
SOURCE Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund