The dream of a college degree has been attainable for millions of veterans thanks to the GI Bill. With the advent of for-profit colleges, that dream has become a nightmare for many, one from which this nation should wake up before another school year gets underway.
Last month, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that nearly 700,000 veterans used their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend nearly 6,000 schools. That cost taxpayers $4.5 billion in 2017.
It seems only right that there be an accounting of how well that kind of investment is doing.
Only 50 schools received a third of the total. Within those schools, graduation rates varied depending on the type of school, with public schools graduating an average of 73 percent of their veterans and nonprofit private schools graduating 66 percent.
There is another player in this mix, however, one that didn’t exist when the GI Bill was giving millions of returning World War II soldiers their tickets to the middle and upper classes.
The GAO reported that for-profit colleges collected a full half of the $1.4 billion paid to the top 50. Their graduation rate was a pathetic 22 percent. Many have closed suddenly, especially this year, leaving those who are still on the degree path with little more than struggles ahead.
Students who transfer from one school to another usually lose some credits. Those who move between public schools lose a bit over a third of their credits. For-profit transferees are able to keep only 6 percent of theirs. That travesty is heightened by start-to-finish time limits imposed by the GI Bill.
For-profit colleges have become, for the most part, an effective way of scamming money from the federal government, which means from all of us.
Current law limits the amount of federal money for-profit colleges can take in to no more than 90 percent of their revenue. Fees paid with GI benefits don’t count. That makes veterans fat prizes for aggressive marketing.
Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which contains that provision. Veterans groups want GI Bill payments calculated the same as other federal student aid in what colleges are allowed to collect, but they have not had much Republican support in the past, according to Politico.
That should change. Taxpayers should not unknowingly be encouraging for-profit colleges to fleece veterans.