Billions of GI Bill funds go to for-profit schools

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 30, 2014 at 8:23 am •  Published: July 30, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have flocked to for-profit colleges, including a troubled chain that is closing or selling its campuses amid a series of federal and state investigations.

A report to be released Wednesday from the office of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a critic of the for-profit education industry who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, finds that for-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in the 2012-2013 school term. About a quarter of benefits paid under the program went to the for-profit sector.

Among the top 10 recipient schools in terms of GI Bill funds, eight were from the for-profit sector. One of them was Corinthian Colleges, a chain based in Santa Ana, California, that recently reached an agreement with the Education Department to sell or close its more than 90 U.S. campuses. The Education Department has said it has concerns about the chain's operations that included allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students, and allegations of altered grades and attendance.

Since the new GI Bill rolled out in 2009, Corinthian has received $186 million in the new GI Bill funds, the report said. Last week, the advocacy group Student Veterans of America placed the schools under the Corinthian umbrella — Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools — on its "not recommended" list.

Including Corinthian, the report finds that seven of the eight companies face investigations by states attorneys general or federal agencies for "deceptive and misleading recruiting" or other possible federal violations. Even as overall enrollment decreased at the eight schools since 2009, it says the number of veterans enrolled at these schools increased.

The new GI Bill program provides the most generous school benefits paid to warfighters since the original bill was enacted in 1944. It can be used by a veteran or a member of the immediate family — and more than a million people have used it so far.

For-profit colleges have been popular among veterans, in part, because of offerings in skilled trades and flexibility such as online classes.

Michael Dakduk, the vice president for military and veterans affairs with the Association of Private Sector Colleges, said in a statement: "It is no surprise that members of the military choose our institutions because we provide them with career-focused programs, important support services and flexibility they need to complete their education."

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