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President’s Order Targets Diploma Mills that Exploit Veterans

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April 27th, 2012

By: Jacqueline Foster, Editor

President Barack Obama signed an executive order today aimed at cracking down on some of the fraudulent marketing and recruiting practices used by certain for-profit career colleges that target military veterans, according to the Associated Press. The president expressed his disapproval earlier today with postsecondary schools that aggressively pursue military veterans educational benefit money, but only offer high-priced, poor-quality education in return, with little student support services.

To highlight the severity of the problem, Obama pointed out one egregious example of unscrupulous recruiting in which a college recruiter reportedly showed up to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, a military training center in North Carolina, and enrolled Marines with traumatic brain injuries. Many of these Marines had injuries so serious that they couldn’t recall the courses they’d enrolled in, and Obama called actions such as these “appalling” and “disgraceful,” the AP article pointed out.

More often, private companies set up websites that look alarmingly similar to government websites or that appear to be affiliated with the GI Bill benefits program, but instead push students toward certain for-profit schools. Obama’s executive order would make it more difficult for companies and schools like these to misrepresent themselves to prospective military students.

The executive order requires higher education institutions to provide “Know Before You Owe” information to prospective military students or veterans, according to a WhiteHouse.gov blog. This information will include clear information on tuition and fees, whether or not federal student aid is available for the program, how much student loan debt the student is likely to incur, and relevant outcomes of the program, such as graduation rates, the blog explained.

The order will also require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense to step up their oversight of questionable recruiting practices, and put new solicitation rules in place to help keep bad actors in the realm of college recruitment from having too much easy access to military bases. The order will also create a centralized complaint system that will allow military service members and veterans who feel they have been taken advantage of to more seamlessly report fraudulent schools.

Other provisions of the executive order require the collection of data pertaining to higher education student outcomes by military service members and veterans, as well as data collection on which educational institutions veterans are choosing when putting their education benefits to use. In addition, the federal government will seek to trademark the words “GI Bill” as a measure to keep various websites and higher education institutions from using the words in deceptive marketing practices.

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