In 1973, a young Naval flight officer returned home after serving in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. With the help of $250 each month from the GI Bill, he enrolled in the University of Delaware’s MBA program and a year later ended up serving as the treasurer and fundraiser in the long-shot congressional campaign of beloved University of Delaware Professor Jim Soles, while still going to graduate school full-time.
I was that young man in 1973, and a combination of my military service, along with the education afforded me through the GI Bill and that campaign changed my life forever.
Today, the GI Bill continues to change thousands of lives for the better each year. According to research published by Student Veterans of America, this new generation of veterans are pursuing degrees in rigorous fields of study, and they’re outperforming their civilian counterparts in classrooms across America.
Since 2009, these veterans have been able to take advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers the full costs of tuition at public colleges and universities like the University of Delaware, Delaware State University or Del Tech, or up to roughly $22,000 per year in tuition for private schools. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also provides a generous monthly housing allowance for 36 months and a stipend for books.
If veterans don’t use those benefits themselves, they may elect to transfer them to a spouse or child.
Now, consider a story far different than my own. Last year, I met Mark Glogouski, a veteran from Pennsylvania. Mark used his GI Bill benefits to pursue a degree at a private for-profit college in Colorado.
Mark did not receive a quality education. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Unfortunately, he found himself without a bachelor’s degree three years later. He had exhausted the education benefits he earned through his military service and, making matters worse, he accrued more than $60,000 in student loan debt.
Going back as far as the original GI Bill after WWII, predatory schools have been ripping off taxpayers and misleading veterans to take advantage of their hard-earned benefits. Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats have a history of working together to better protect students and taxpayers from bad actors and improving educational quality in the for-profit sector.
That’s what happened 25 years ago when Democrats and Republicans sent President George H.W. Bush bipartisan legislation that capped the amount of revenues that for-profit schools can receive from taxpayers. Today, that law is known as the 90/10 rule, and it requires for-profit schools to obtain at least 10 percent of their funding from non-federal sources.
This small requirement greatly improved the educational quality of these institutions by harnessing market forces to make sure that at least some students and employers were willing to spend some of their own money for the education that they received.
Unfortunately, a loophole in the law allows for-profit schools to count the GI Bill as non-federal revenue. In 2011, Holly Petraeus stated that this “90/10 loophole” creates an incentive for bad actors in the for-profit college sector to view our service members and veterans as “lucrative targets” and “nothing more than dollar signs in uniform.”
The uptick in aggressive marketing to our service members and veterans, particularly since the establishment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, has been well-documented in Congressional investigations and news reports.
It’s important to acknowledge that not every for-profit school is a bad actor. Many are doing a good job preparing students for the workforce and for life.
However, taxpayers have allocated more than $75 billion toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill program since 2009, even as many of the top recipients of GI Bill funds have been placed under investigation by bipartisan state attorneys general and the federal government in recent years for misleading students. Additionally, schools like ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, which combined received over $1 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, have gone bankrupt and closed their doors for good, leaving taxpayers and our veterans in the lurch.
I believe that one veteran misled or mistreated by a for-profit school is one veteran too many. There were almost 7,000 veterans enrolled at ITT Tech alone when it closed. We know that far too many veterans have wasted their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at now-defunct schools that exploited the 90/10 loophole for years. Congress should do something about it and, now, we can.
This Veterans Day, I am reintroducing much-needed legislation to close the 90/10 loophole by simply counting GI Bill dollars as federal dollars, which they are! It’s a commonsense fix that can improve educational outcomes for veterans and protect taxpayers at the same time. It would also restore the bipartisan intent of Congress that no school should be allowed to receive 100 percent of its revenues from taxpayers.
In the spirit of Veterans Day, I’m hopeful that Republicans and Democrats will work together, as we have in the past, to better protect student veterans and taxpayers. Every veteran deserves access affordable, high-quality education. Closing the 90/10 loophole ensures the GI Bill will continue changing lives for the better for decades to come.