Major publicly-traded for-profit college corporations are profiting off veterans’ post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits—to the tune of $1.7 billion in the 2012-2013 year alone. What’s more, seven of the top eight for-profit colleges receiving these funds are currently under state or federal investigation for deceptive and potentially illegal recruiting practices. The findings were released in a new report (PDF) out today from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Veterans are a lucrative market for for-profit schools. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill allows those who’ve served a minimum of 90 days in the military since Sept. 11, 2001 access to $19,200 of student grants annually for four years. And the industry has taken advantage of it—for-profit schools that enroll just 13 percent of the nation’s college students, scooped up 25 percent of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds last year alone. Between 2009 and 2013, veteran enrollment in for-profit schools grew from 23 to 31 percent.
One of the largest recipients of taxpayers’ veterans’ support was Corinthian Colleges, the disgraced for-profit giant which was recently forced by the federal government to offload or sell its 102 campuses nationwide. Corinthian Colleges received $186 million in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds.
Student advocates have long been concerned that for-profit schools entice vulnerable students and saddle them with serious debt and degrees that are not valued in the marketplace—or sometimes no degree at all. Indeed, students from for-profit schools accounted for nearly half of those who defaulted on their student loans last year.
In recent years, scandal-ridden for-profit schools have become the target of Senate investigations, lawsuits, and federal pressure for these very practices. The findings come two years after Sen. Harkin released a multi-year Senate investigation into the for-profit industry. The study found admissions officers preying on poor students in order to win access to their federal student aid and loans.
For-profit schools grew enormously in the last decade by aggressively enrolling veterans, as well as a disproportionately high number of black, Latino and poor students.
“While the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill was designed to expand educational opportunities for our veterans and servicemembers, I am concerned that it is primarily expanding the coffers of the big corporations running these schools,” Sen. Harkin said in a statement.