Senator, Advocates Warn Veterans About For-Profit College Recruiting

 @catadunnc.dunn@ibtimes.com on July 24 2014 7:43 AM
Veterans Day Parade
Student Veterans of America is warning students about Corinthian Colleges through a new "Not Recommended" list. Reuters/Mike Blake

Corinthian Colleges Inc. is a for-profit education company closing after multiple federal and state investigations, Yet, last week, Military Times reported, recruiters from Corinthian-owned WyoTech and Heald College attended “education events at four military bases in California ...  encouraging active-duty and separating troops to sign up for classes this fall.”

That's triggered yet more ire from the halls of the U.S. Senate and prominent veterans advocates as the company continues to recruit potential students with military benefits to spend on education.

The Santa Ana, California-based Corinthian reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month, under which the company agreed to sell 85 of its campuses, and close a dozen others. The DoE has been investigating the company over allegations of falsified job placement data, and altered grades and attendance, and recently appointed a federal monitor, former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to oversee Corinthian's operations. 

Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois), who chairs the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, reacted to the news with a strong warning: “Before signing up for class and student debt, every student should know Corinthian schools are going out of business,” he said in a statement.  

The Senator also urged the Department of Education, along with state officials across the U.S., “to put an end to all new Corinthian [Colleges] enrollments as several states have already done.”

Student Veterans of America (SVA), an advocacy organization, received complaints about Corinthian recruiting on California bases, as well. In an unprecedented move this week, SVA named three Corinthian-owned schools -- Everest College, Heald College, and WyoTech -- to its first “Not Recommended” list.

“If you’re not able to satisfactorily care for the educational needs of those enrolled, then why would you still allow other vets to be recruited?” D. Wayne Robinson, SVA president and CEO, told IBTimes.

For year, lawmakers have decried aggressive marketing tactics aimed at veterans by for-profit colleges. Under what's known as the "90/10" rule, for-profit colleges aren't allowed to draw more than 90 percent of their revenue from the Department of Education's federal student aid funds. GI Bill benefits and military tuition assistance, however, don't count toward the 90 percent. So for-profit colleges can comply with the rule, while still tapping other sources of federal dollars. Sen. Durbin has proposed a measure to close the loophole.  

Corinthian enrolls 72,000 students nationwide, and approximately 9,000 of its current students use GI Bill educational funds, according to SVA. Corinthian says 7 percent of its students have military backgrounds.

Robinson said student veterans at the schools are facing an “environment of total uncertainty,” and lack answers about how Corinthian's unsettled future will impact the use of their benefits. 

“What happens to the [GI Bill] benefits that have already been expended for those that can’t graduate?” Robinson asked. “Along the same lines, is there a program, or is it being discussed, for these student veterans to be able to transfer credits earned to other institutions?”

Since publishing the “Not Recommended” list, SVA has received dozens of queries from veterans at Corinthian-affiliated schools, said communications director Emma Scherer.   

“Most of them are saying either, I didn’t know this was going on, or, I was just made aware this was going on, what does this mean for me?” she told IBTimes.

To help answer that, Scherer said, SVA is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to launch an online “FAQ” page for student veterans enrolled at Corinthian schools.   

Corinthian Colleges spokesperson Kent Jenkins called SVA’s “Not Recommended” list a “political statement,” and said that students with military-connected benefits have “been able to continue their classes as they are so far.”

“We and the Department of Education have the shared goal of providing as much consistency as we can,” Jenkins said. “At none of our schools has there been any interruption to the classes, or the students.”

Jenkins said students will be receiving two-page disclosure forms telling them about either the sale or closure of their schools. Students will be required to sign and return an acknowledgement of the document. “We began distributing them last week, and the process will be ongoing at schools that are for sale,” he said.

Jenkins acknowledged, however, that some state officials have frozen veterans education benefits for the time being. “There have been one or two state agencies that have put a temporary hold on processing state veterans benefits,” he said.

In late June, the California Department of Veterans Affairs suspended GI Bill benefits to Corinthian Colleges, and its Everest, Heald, and Wyotech schools located in the state. Corinthian has until Aug. 23 to provide the department with “an acceptable plan on how they will assist their GI Bill students in finishing their education,” according to the department’s Web site.

Jenkins said Virginia is the other state that has placed a hold on GI Bill benefits. “We are working through those situations,” he said.

Asked whether Corinthian will continue with its recruiting efforts, Jenkins said that, per the company's agreement with the Department of Education, “The schools being sold will continue to enroll new students.” 

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