A House subcommittee hearing on May 16 in Washington examined the impact of President Barack Obama's Executive Order No. 13607 on schools and veterans.
The American Legion submitted written testimony to the hearing conducted by the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity and chaired by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.
The president's executive order, "Establishing Principles of Excellence for Education Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members," issued on April 27, is intended to protect the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs – including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance Program, and the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) – from predatory for-profit schools.
The order's provisions focus on ensuring that servicemembers and veterans have the information, support and protection they need to make informed decisions about their higher-education options.
In its testimony, the Legion pointed out that more than 800,000 student veterans are receiving GI Bill education benefits. Some were recruited by for-profit schools that have drawn criticism for poor graduation rates, high tuition, lack of accountability and questionable recruiting practices.
For-profit schools are not cheap, despite their general lack of brick-and-mortar campuses, academic counseling or personal interaction with faculty members. According to the Department of Education, for-profits cost on average $30,900 per year, compared to $15,600 for public colleges and $26,000 for private non-profits. In addition, 46 percent of all student loan dollars in default come from for-profit schools, despite the fact they account for only 12 percent of college students.
"These are just some of the facts that cannot be ignored anymore by policymakers," the Legion testified. "Servicemembers, veterans and their family members trying to improve their job prospects shouldn't be duped into taking on crushing debt in exchange for the promise of a future job that will probably never materialize."
While the Legion supports Obama's executive order, its intent should not be limited to for-profit, post-secondary institutions. All post-secondary schools should be a matter of concern.
The Legion said the president's executive order "is a step in the right direction. It is one portion of the overall effort in aiding decision-makers and encouraging prospective servicemembers, veterans and their family members to consider certain criteria as an important component of their college choice."
The danger of unscrupulous for-profit schools is a situation that should be of bipartisan concern, the Legion testified, "where bogus degrees are a symptom of crisis among our servicemembers, veterans and their families, and where even those who claim to be accredited are often worthless in the job market. There is a significant gap between the obligation and delivery of higher education, which, unless checked, will constrain our economic growth, risking and squandering this nation's competitive advantage."
To read the Legion's written testimony, click here .