Dollars in Uniforms

Dollars in Uniforms

Opinion-JeffreyLau

The post-9/11 G.I. Bill needs to be revised to prevent for-profit institutions from further exploiting our returning war heroes

When the war ended in both Iraq and Afghanistan, American veterans were finally able to return home and reunite with their family and friends. After many years on the battlefield, many war veterans are seeking higher education and living a civilian life. Over the past year, more than 1 million veterans have enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, and in 2012 alone, 600,000 veterans spent $9 billion in federal education funding.

For many returning veterans, for-profit universities like Kaplan University, Keiser University and the University of Phoenix seem like great options. Many veterans are either struggling to re-integrate themselves into society or having financial responsibilities to support their family. With the overcrowding of community colleges, for-profit schools seem to be the next best alternative. With aggressive marketing techniques and an easy 15-minute application process, for-profit schools have already received $32 billion in federal grants and loans and $7.5 billion in Federal Pell Grants from students with federal aid money.

However, for-profit schools should not qualify for government education funding, because our veterans deserve more than the second-class education that these institutions provide. Because for-profit schools are governed by profit-driven businessmen and the private sector, they exploit war veterans through a loophole in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, in order to see profits and pay less attention to quality education.

Many for-profit schools target veterans to boost enrollment rates due to the high flow of funding in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill awards honorably discharged veterans with up to 36 months of education benefits, including full coverage of in-state tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and up to $1,000 of financial aid for school-related supplies. These benefits are due to revisions of the original G.I. Bill that put thousands of veterans in school after World War II and fueled America’s postwar economy. However, in these revisions, legislators introduced a rule that for-profits use to exploit veterans. The 90/10 Rule, under the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, prevents these institutions from taking more than 90 percent of their funding from federal student aid, but gives for-profit universities the incentive to accept veterans under the G.I. Bill. Because they are classified separately from traditional federal student aid, veterans are manipulated by for-profits, robbed of the educational benefits they earned and left with large amounts of student debt.

The core of the problem is that for-profit schools uphold a “quantity over quality” policy because they profit based on the number of student enrollments, rather than high standards of education. Many for-profit schools are run by publicly traded education companies such as Education Management Corporation and the Apollo Group, who value profits over student success. Despite gains of $210 million from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, for-profit schools still devote less than one-third of what public universities spend on students.

However, it is not hard to understand why our veterans would fall into for-profit schools’ trap. Unlike traditional colleges, for-profit schools aggressively advertise their flexible hours, online classes and convenient locations as a main selling point to appeal to veterans. These firms spend approximately 20 percent of their total net revenue of $1.3 billion for one fiscal quarter on advertising and promoting alone.

Yet for-profit universities set up veterans to fail, leaving them with few options and a significant amount of debt. Veterans who want to transfer out of for-profit schools to a traditional college often face difficulties due to their non-transferable units, resulting in course completion rates as low as 30 percent. What’s worse is that according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the G.I. Bill does not fully cover for-profit university tuition or expenses for incomplete coursework. Ultimately, as these students fall out of school, they fall into increased amounts of debt.

Essentially, for-profit schools are exploiting war veterans for their financial aid package instead of dedicating resources to improve the standard of education. Thus, it is imperative for legislatures to stop speculating and actually take action. The Obama administration increased awareness on the exploitation of veterans due to the G.I. Bill, but the U.S. Department of Education needs to implement legislations that will limit federal aid money flowing into for-profit schools and non-vocational programs.

Even though the structure of for-profit schools have more flexible hours and appeal to veterans with prior commitments, high standard education must be placed as top priority. For-profit schools taking federal aid money while not providing quality education are essentially scamming and cheating our war heroes. While the U.S. government cannot interfere with for-profit schools’ policies, the least they can do is to limit and monitor federal money is going to and ensure high quality education for our veterans.

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