By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Monday it intends to stop allowing five universities — three private for-profit schools, one private nonprofit school, and one public research institution — to enroll new students using their GI Bill benefits due to deceptive advertising. VA wrote those institutions will have 60 days to take corrective action before it prohibits enrollment.
Specifically, VA wrote it found “sufficient evidence” at the University of Phoenix, Perdoceo Education Corporation (formerly Career Education Corporation) — which manages Colorado Technical University and American InterContinental University — Bellevue University, and Temple University “to support a finding that these schools have utilized advertising, sales, or enrollment practices that are erroneous, deceptive, or misleading either by actual statement, omission, or intimation against GI Bill beneficiaries, in violation of the law.”
“Our aim in taking this action is to protect veterans and their dependents’ GI Bill benefits and comply with the law,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “The department is committed to helping beneficiaries avoid any negative consequences that may result.”
In total, the five universities serve more than 30,000 students using GI Bill benefits, according to VA’s GI Bill comparison tool.
While VA wrote its actions will only apply to new enrollments or students “returning from a break in attendance,” it did note that state agencies approving courses at those institutions may take independent action based on VA’s findings, which may result in VA having to cease GI Bill benefits for current students as well. However, according to VA, it will “take appropriate actions to keep beneficiaries informed of any developments that would impact them.”
“VA is working closely with Congress, veterans service organizations, state approving agencies, VA-approved Institutions of higher learning, other federal agencies and school associations to ensure GI Bill students are provided the best options to continue their educational pursuits,” the agency wrote.
Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, said in a statement that Monday’s decision “sends a powerful message … that the federal government and taxpayers will no longer tolerate schools that seek to defraud veterans and other military-connected students out of their hard-earned federal education benefits.”
In fact, the for-profit universities VA flagged have already recently been subject to lawsuits for misleading students. Last December, the University of Phoenix reached a $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which argued the school used false advertisements to claim it had ties to companies such as AT&T, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter, and The American Red Cross. In August, Career Education Corporation was ordered to pay FTC $30 million after it was found to be falsely marketing itself as associated with the military.
Plus, last December, Temple University agreed to pay $250,000 in new scholarships for students as part of a settlement, after it was sued for reporting false data about its business school to maintain a high ranking on websites such as U.S. News & World Report.
VA wrote in its announcement Monday that impacted GI Bill students can contact its Education Call Center at 888-442-4551 for assistance, or submit questions to VA online.
Publication Date: 3/10/2020
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