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help you prepare for choosing a school at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/choosing_a_school.asp.


and women who served the nation and stepped forward when we called. It’s a real travesty; it’s a real crime.” To date, 37 state attorneys general have mounted


investigations and are taking legal action to crack down on predatory practices based on consumer fraud com- plaints. At least 18 of them have set their sights on ITT Tech, the third-largest recipient of GI bill funds. The Department of Education, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, and other agencies also are looking at the industry. Lawsuits have been filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securi- ties and Exchange Commission. In October, DoD placed the University of Phoenix,


the largest recipient of GI bill funds, on probation and prohibited the company from enrolling new service- members using the voluntary military education pro- grams. The company has reaped more than $1.2 billion in GI bill benefits since 2009, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. “In return, the company offers servicemembers [and] veterans degrees of ques- tionable value, below-average graduation rates, and,


get this, a student loan default rate almost 40-percent higher than the national average,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said from the Senate floor in July. “That’s what we’re offering to members of our military and veterans through the University of Phoenix and their programs.” His frustration was palpable when he again took to the Senate floor in August: “This is the most heavily sub- sidized private business in the United States of America. University of Phoenix, Kaplan University, DeVry Univer- sity, Rasmussen, Corinthian — you’ve heard all the names because they advertise constantly, and the money they use to advertise comes from federal taxpayers.”


Fighting back The government has taken steps to protect veterans and servicemembers. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an execu-


tive order designed to combat some of the abuses by reining in the predatory practices of for-profit schools that specifically target veterans’ educational benefits; by developing consumer tools that arm servicemem- bers and veterans and their families with information — and help them report any problems they might have after they enroll — and by enhancing federal investiga- tions into allegations of wrongdoing. “There are some bad actors out there,” Obama told


a crowd at Fort Stewart, Ga., before signing the order. “They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your de- gree, but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high-interest student loan. They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits. But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t. They’ll say they’ve got a job place- ment program when, in fact, they don’t. It’s not right. They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you.” As a result of the order, the VA launched the GI Bill Comparison Tool in February 2014. The tool allows pro- spective students to do preliminary research regarding the value and affordability of schools approved for the GI bill. “We’re incredibly proud of the comparison tool,” says Curtis Coy, deputy undersecretary for economic opportu- nity at the VA. “In 18 months or so, it’s gone from nonex- isting to what some might call the holy grail of the GI bill, where it provides a large amount of information.” Using the tool, prospective students can estimate how far their GI bill benefits will go at a particular school and see the number of other veterans enrolled there and how many complaints have been filed


[CONTINUES ON PAGE 91] JANUARY 2016 MILITARY OFFICER 83


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