Senate Bill Would Give Veterans Same Safeguards as Pell Recipients

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A bipartisan bill recently introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), and co-sponsored by Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), would  protect the educational benefits of veterans and active-duty service members. The Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012 (S 2179) would ensure the colleges in which vets and active-duty members enroll are subject to the same standards of program quality applied to those serving Pell Grant recipients. It also would offer veterans new informational resources to counter predatory recruiting by for-profit colleges.

The measure would require that all programs receiving funds for Tuition Assistance from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Post-9/11 GI Bill programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) become eligible for Title IV, a requirement for recipients of other federal education assistance funds. The bill also would provide increased transparency for prospective students by requiring schools to report information such as graduation rates and loan-default rates. In addition, it would establish a complaints process for veterans to report instances of misrepresentation, abuse, and waste.

The bill also would create a joint educational counseling program between the VA and DoD aimed at protecting veterans from for-profit colleges that aggressively target these returning soldiers to maximize the amount of federal student-aid funds the institutions receive. Schools with at least 20 students receiving VA or DoD funds would be required to provide student services for veterans, including academic support and career services, to ensure students are adequately prepared to enter the job market upon completing their academic program.

Many of the protections in the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act reflect the best practices already occurring at responsible institutions. They’ll allow veterans and active-duty service members to enjoy the same safeguards that are already available to other recipients of federal student aid. Too many service members are aggressively recruited to for-profit schools, only to emerge without a degree or with useless credentials. The need for greater oversight is well documented. The Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act would mark a significant step forward in meeting that need, protecting our veterans from predatory recruiting by for-profit companies.

—Nicole Tortoriello