Protect veterans from predatory colleges

Published 10:33 pm Sunday, June 3, 2018

From Memorial Day in late May to the anniversary of D-Day, it’s normally a good time to be a veteran. They get well-earned recognition at sports stadiums and in local parades.  There are a series of war movie marathons on TV channels. We wish we could do more for our armed forces personnel, and those who have served our country so nobly in the past.

Actually, there’s a really good way to help active duty and our retired military.  First of all, we need to rescind the order to end investigations of predatory colleges, firing the Secretary of Education if necessary.  Second of all, we need to stop the PROSPER Act, which helps many of these education institutions fleece veterans and the taxpayer as well.

The New York Times reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has engaged in a de facto termination of all investigations into predatory colleges, despite evidence that for-profit schools receive 98 percent of the complaints.  These predatory colleges have not only earned the wrath of nearly 40 attorneys general (Republicans and Democrats) across the country, who have sued to stop the fraud.  And it will be you, the taxpayer who will foot the bill for these students who will graduate with huge bills, worthless degrees and another step toward the shameful poverty a number of veterans have faced in recent years.

Sadly, there’s a legacy of villains who have sought to bilk veterans out of their benefits going back to the beginning, according to The New York Times, when the G.I. Bill was passed to help WWII soldiers returning home. And it’s only gotten worse as some for-profit schools go after our military members.  Sure there are some good for-profit schools, and the online component really helps military members who move around the country, but non-profit colleges and state universities are starting to catch up, and lack the predatory behavior of some institutions.

Trained more to fight than to spot collegiate scams, our veterans need the help of the Education Department helping them make the best choices. We’ve fired a lot of people for giving veterans crappy health care. Why not do the same for those who give veterans a crappy education?

Sadly, the well-intentioned, but poorly-executed PROSPER Act, the latest attempt to tell higher education what to do, will actually empower these predatory schools, and cost the taxpayer more in the end as well.

“With some small exceptions, the bill eliminates the distinction between for-profit and other colleges as defined by the Higher Education Act, a longstanding policy priority of the for-profit college industry,” writes The Institute for College Access and Success. “All types of colleges should be subject to appropriate oversight and accountability, but the reality is that public and nonprofit colleges are already subject to significant oversight by states, while for-profit colleges — which are almost entirely federally funded — are not.  This change would make for-profit colleges eligible for a range of programs across the federal government… allowing for-profit colleges to have an even greater share of limited federal dollars would be unwise given ample research about the poor outcomes at many of these schools.” 

If you want to help veterans seeking little more than a well-deserved thank you, and a chance at a good education, contact your local member of Congress and tell them you oppose the Education Department shutting down investigations of fraud, and oppose the PROSPER Act as well.  It’s worth a click or two to your representative or Senators to help our veterans get a good education.