Protecting Higher Education For Our Veterans

Rep. Jody Hice Congressman, Georgia 10th District
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Following more than a decade of fighting asymmetric conflicts on multiple fronts, many veterans today face an entirely new dilemma on a very different terrain.

While transitioning from military to civilian life, millions of veterans consider taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits to further their education. The Post-9/11 GI Bill — enacted in 2008 — offers veterans who have served since September 10th, 2001 the chance to pursue a wider variety of opportunities.

These are men and women who risked all, and the least we can do is ensure that they are armed with accurate information — before they enroll — about the academic institutions where they may use their education benefits. In short, we must do all in our power to help our veterans after their service in the Armed Forces.

Since coming to office last year, it has come to my attention that forty percent of GI Bill tuition goes to for-profit institutions. Unfortunately, oftentimes it is only after veterans have used a significant portion of their GI Bill benefits at these colleges — intending to then transfer credits earned to a traditional college or university — that they learn in many instances they can’t. Due to poorly publicized articulation agreements — contracts that govern the transferability of credits between schools — between for-profit and nonprofit schools, and the time-constraints of transitioning to civilian life, veterans are getting the facts about their GI benefits too late.

This leaves our nation’s heroes vulnerable — after using their education benefits to pay for credits that don’t transfer— and with little to show for the benefits they earned for their service. This is one particular battle that no veteran should have to fight.   

Veteran students have unique skills and life experiences, so it would seem only natural that universities and institutions would compete vigorously to enroll these outstanding individuals. However, there have been many inexcusable instances in which some for-profit universities recruit veterans during their “what’s next” phase, and focus on how much money can be made from veteran enrollment. Through predatory and aggressive marketing campaigns, several proprietary colleges have raked in millions of taxpayer dollars by targeting veterans to sign-up, without fully explaining what exactly they are getting in return.   

Of course there are some for-profit institutions that provide a beneficial service to veterans. The flexible schedules and online courses offered by for-profits are attractive to many veterans serving overseas, and many operate on a rolling admissions cycle that appeals to veterans, and older students generally.

The key to curbing the influence of bad actors in this sphere is improving the accessibility and effectiveness of the information veterans receive about their education benefits. There are some resources in place to help veterans make the right choice for their education, and while the VA does offer transition counseling to veterans leaving the service, it is non-compulsory.

To help our veterans make decisions about their education with all of the requisite facts, I have introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to include information about educational counseling services offered to veterans, and to inform veterans about the various agreements that exist between schools that govern the transfer of credits. This will ensure that they have the tools they need to make the most informed decisions possible. It is my hope that when my legislation passes, veterans will no longer be forced to face unnecessary roadblocks to their future successes in the classroom.