A recent opinion piece penned by Democratic Florida Congresswoman Donna Shalala shed light on her support of a restructuring of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that has the potential to severely hurt and limit our country’s veterans. The fact remains that our veterans have the right to choose the college, trade school, or university that best suits their need. While there are many predatory for-profit colleges in existence, the right to choose should be left to veterans.
What exactly is Congresswoman Shalala asking for? According to her editorial on MilitaryTimes.com, there exists a loophole of sorts that allows some predatory schools to essentially steal GI funds without actually providing the promised education. Unfortunately, this problem does exist and it is a real threat to those who are seeking an education that can help them gain a foothold in the job market.
After all, this is what the GI Bill was structured and intended to do.
Removing the “90/10 Rule” to Limit Veteran Education Choices
By giving veterans a way to access education and pursue a career after their service ends, the GI Bill allows these individuals to “reacclimate” to life as a civilian. Often, the GI Bill means an actual future for a veteran who did not enter into any post-secondary education and instead decided to enlist in the military.
Congresswoman Shalala, therefore, has proposed eliminating a loophole that allows veterans to spend their GI tuition funds at for-profit colleges that operate under what is known as the “90/10 rule”.
“Under this law, for-profit colleges can receive federal student aid, such as Pell grants or federally funded student loans, only if they are able to generate at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than the federal government,” Shalala wrote in her editorial. “The 90/10 ratio was intended to be a measure of school quality, prohibiting federal tax dollars from supporting institutions that cannot earn the minimum revenue from sources outside the government, such as employers, scholarship endowments, or students who are willing to pay full tuition.”
What has happened instead, however, is that some of these universities have profited off of the GI funds and then disappeared, some shutting their doors altogether. So, this does present a problem for some students who are left with few options if this worst-case scenario happens.
But what Congresswoman Shalala is proposing is still not a viable solution. She is proposing a restructuring of this 90/10 rule so that some of these for-profit institutions would then be prohibited from participating as a school that accepts GI funds. While this may help limit some institutions from taking advantage, this is also doing a disservice to our veterans by limiting the choice of schools they would have if this change were to go into effect.
Some veterans have come out in staunch opposition to Congresswoman Shalala’s proposition. To add fuel to her fire, former presidential candidate Julian Castro also called for the elimination of the option for veterans to attend a for-profit university at all. This limitation of choice would not serve our veterans well.
Can we Maintain Freedom for Veterans AND Protect Against Waste, Fraud, and Abuse?
What could be presented, instead, are stricter regulations on the colleges or schools that do have a record of predatory habits. If a college is not violating any rules and is giving out accredited college credits or degrees, then a veteran should have the choice to attend this school regardless of whether or not it operates for profit. Many of these schools that would fall under Congresswoman Shalala’s proposal are actually quite beneficial for veterans, and taking these options away from them presents a lot of issues.
Taking away a veteran’s (or any citizen’s, for that matter) freedom of choice is not a matter to be taken lightly. This proposal has serious drawbacks that our veterans need to be aware of, as there are better solutions to a problem caused by third parties than taking away our veterans’ choice of education.
The option to attend a for-profit school, be it a vocational college or a technical school, should never be taken away. Some veterans may not thrive in a traditional college or university environment; many of the for-profit schools that fall into the aforementioned category offer hybrid class models that work better for veterans with busy schedules and/or families. Eliminating these perfectly legitimate schools from the list of options will make some veterans choose not to pursue a higher education because a traditional college format might not work for them.
It’s time to take a stand for our veterans so that they may have the freedom to choose the educational path that works best for them, not punish them for their choice to go to a school that fits their needs.