CLEVELAND, OH— Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, military servicemembers and veterans are able to take advantage of tuition assistance benefits—but many for-profit colleges are attempting to take advantage of men and women in uniform by flooding them with deceptive and aggressive marketing and recruitment pitches. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined Brad Sonenstein, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Mayfield Heights, to outline the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012, which would help veterans make informed decisions about their educational future and crack down on misleading solicitation campaigns carried out by these schools.
“When servicemembers and returning veterans like Brad Sonenstein seek to use their GI Bill education benefits, they are too often subjected to aggressive misleading marketing and aggressive recruitment tactics by educational institutions. And unfortunately, many of these institutions—like some for-profit colleges—are more concerned with their own bottom line than helping those who served on the front lines. And that’s not right,” Brown said. “This bill would provide veterans with more and better information about their benefits, would require all institutions of higher education to disclose critical information about the average student loan debt and job placement data, and would crack down on the type of recruitment tactics that Brad faced.
“Those using the GI Bill tend to be older than the average student population. They chose to serve our nation rather than go straight to college. Because of this, many have families, careers, or other challenges that their classmates don’t have. Giving our veterans the tools to make the best personal decision benefits everyone,” Brown added. “The original GI Bill is what helped make the Greatest Generation so great. That is why we have to make sure that every eligible veteran has the knowledge and resources to take advantage of the new GI Bill in a way that best prepares them for the future.”
Shortly after leaving the Air Force, Sonenstein applied for his GI Bill benefits, and in his words, “received a torrent of offers from for-profit colleges.” Today, Sonenstein is enrolled at Kent State University and is receiving his Master’s Degree in Dietetics and Nutrition Science. Brown and Sonenstein were also joined by Joshua Rider, the Assistant Director for the Center for Adult and Veteran Services (CAVS) at Kent State University, to highlight how the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 could help veterans and servicemembers make better-informed educational decisions as well as reduce aggressive and misleading marketing campaigns. As NPR recently reported, websites like “GIBill.Com” look like official government websites, but are actually designed to sell veterans’ personal and contact information to educational institutions, including many for-profit colleges.
The GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 would complement veterans’ educational assistance programs by requiring VA to provide beneficiaries with easy-to-understand information about schools that are approved for GI Bill use. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Call for disclosure of, among other data, statistics related to student loan debt, transferability of credits earned, veteran enrollment, program preparation for licensing and certification, and job placement rates.
- Provide educational beneficiaries with easy-to-understand information about schools that are approved for GI Bill benefit use.
- Require educational institutions accepting GI Bill Benefits to have at least one full-time equivalent employee who is knowledgeable about benefits available to servicemembers and veterans.
- Enable VA and the Department of Defense to develop a joint policy on aggressive recruiting and misleading marketing aimed at servicemembers, veterans, and other beneficiaries.
- Make educational counseling available to more beneficiaries.
According to the Veterans Affairs Committee, on which Brown serves, more than 590,000 servicemembers, veterans, and other beneficiaries are expected to enroll in educational institutions using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA is expected to spend more than $9 billion dollars in 2012 on Post-9/11 GI Bill payments and over $2 billion for the nearly 400,000 beneficiaries of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) other education programs.