President Obama issued an executive order Friday that ties military and veteran education benefits to marketing and recruitment practices at postsecondary institutions. The measure also calls for the establishment of new outcome measurements, financial disclosure requirements and enhance enforcement and compliance mechanisms.
"To ensure our service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed decisions concerning their well-earned Federal military and veterans educational benefits, I am directing my Administration to develop Principles of Excellence to strengthen oversight, enforcement, and accountability within these benefits programs," Obama’s executive order states.
The principles would ensure that educational institutions receiving funding through Federal military and veterans educational benefits programs would:
Programs encompassed by the principles include Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill) and educational benefits in the Department of Defense's Tuition Assistance Program. The principles would require institutions to:
The order tasks the Department of Education (ED), the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), in consultation with the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) and the Attorney General, to develop a plan for implementation of these principles and development of consumer protection tools to provide materials and comparative information to service members.
The President also calls on ED, DoD and VA, in consultation with CFPB and the Attorney General, to submit a plan to strengthen enforcement and compliance mechanisms within 90 days of Friday’s order. Such a plan would include a centralized complaint system and procedures for processing complaints, program reviews and increased monitoring of websites and programs for deceptive, fraudulent and misleading practices.
The order comes on the heels of legislation introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would require education counseling services for every veteran eligible for education assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and legislation introduced by Sens. Harkin and Kay Hagan (D-NC) that would prohibit the use of revenues derived from the Title IV federal student aid programs (such as Pell Grants and Federal Direct Student Loans), military and veterans education benefits and other forms of federal student aid by postsecondary institutions for advertising, marketing and recruitment practices.
"Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law, there have been reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting of service members, veterans, and their families by some educational institutions," Obama’s order states. "For example, some institutions have recruited veterans with serious brain injuries and emotional vulnerabilities without providing academic support and counseling; encouraged service members and veterans to take out costly institutional loans rather than encouraging them to apply for Federal student loans first; engaged in misleading recruiting practices on military installations; and failed to disclose meaningful information that allows potential students to determine whether the institution has a good record of graduating service members, veterans, and their families and positioning them for success in the workforce."
An analysis of VA data, by the Senate HELP Committee, shows that of the $4.4 billion in VA higher education benefits disbursed to 5,985 institutions in the 2010-11 academic year, more than 37 percent went to for-profit education companies. The HELP Committee found that several colleges with high dropout rates and low graduation rates devoted as much as 30 percent of their revenue to advertising, marketing and recruiting.
Publication Date: 4/30/2012