The “For Profit Wars” continue. Senator Tom Harkin has another hearing this week and a different Senate Committee held a hearing on March 2nd at which Senator Harkin was a witness.
Senator Thomas Carper (D, DE) held a hearing that focused on a report from the GAO that found problems with the Defense Department’s oversight of its tuition assistance program and some “improper or questionable marketing practices” by for profits.
It reminded me of an early morning call to the CAAHEP office from a woman who was serving in Iraq. In preparation for her eventual discharge she wanted to get trained in an allied health profession. She told me that she was being pursued (and pressured) by an online program that she had learned was not accredited. All I could do was confirm that it was not accredited and talk to her about the consequences of graduating from a non-accredited program. Somehow, misleading and high pressure sales tactics seemed especially egregious when directed at a young person who was putting her life on the line every day in a war zone!
So, the biggest surprise for me as a result of that Senate hearing, was learning that military tuition assistance is not considered “federal aid” under the 90/10 rule. The 90/10 rule was created in the Higher Education Act reauthorization of 1992, the last time there was lots of scrutiny of “fly-by-night” for-profits and student loan defaults. It says that a school cannot get more than 90% of its funding from federal student aid or it will become ineligible for continued receipt of federal money. Many institutions operate dangerously close to that 90% limit. And apparently one of the ways some schools keep below the limit is to market and recruit heavily among active duty military personnel because those tuition benefits are not part of the 90%.
I must admit, I don’t begin to understand why money that comes from the Department of Defense would not be considered “federal money.” And the rule likely will not change in the near future because there is bound to be opposition in the Republican controlled House of Representatives – in fact, House Republicans, who look far more favorably upon the for-profit sector, are talking about raising that 90% limit.
Whatever happens with the 90/10 rule it seems to me that members of our armed forces deserve better than what that young woman in Iraq was faced with. Shame on those who would take advantage of our military personnel!