Maryland First State to Protect Veterans from College Profiteering
Effective July 1st, 2020, the Veteran’s Education Protection Act, which was passed in the Maryland General Assembly on May 7th, removes any incentive for an educational institution operating in Maryland to employ deceptive practices that defraud veterans.
What’s the Issue?
There has been a practice at some schools to use the GI Bill funds of their students to prop up their failing institutions’ revenue.
Due to the ambiguity of the federal regulations, which require at least 10% of a school’s revenue to come from non-federal sources, a demeaning practice has developed of enrolling as many veterans as possible to pad their revenue statements.
Maryland has become the first state in the union to close that negligent loophole. The state created a “90/10 rule” that forbids institutions based in Maryland from counting VA benefits as private revenue.
This is a victory and one celebrated by veteran support organizations because the new law moves to stop institutions from using veterans as financial cattle.
Organizations like Veterans Education Success praised the new law and indicated that it was prompted by the inaction from the federal government. “As long as the federal government fails to close this loophole,” said Ramond Curtis, the state policy manager for Veterans Education Success, “the burden of protecting veterans from predatory for-profit schools will fall on the states.”
Curtis’ statement highlights an ugly truth between national and state legislation. Sometimes, a state will be more effective at protecting its citizens in matters such as these.
My Personal Experience
Many moons ago, I was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, and I decided to take some college courses. I wanted to improve my chances for promotion by showing initiative in personal and professional development.
One of the institutions I came across at Fort Meade’s education center was American Intercontinental University (AIU). They were an online school, and back then it was online learning was still fairly novel. I’d enrolled in a couple of courses, and in the middle of the semester, I PCS’d to Camp Casey, Korea.
Because of the move, I ended up failing one of my classes because I missed the final exam. I was using the Army’s tuition assistance program at the time, and the Army recouped the money from my paycheck over a twelve-month period.
At the same time, AIU contacted me and wanted to recoup the money as well. I faxed them a statement from the Camp Casey education center stating that I did not owe the school money because the Army had already taken measures to recoup the tuition they paid for. Done, right?
Wrong. Every couple of years, even as recent as 2018, AIU tries to collect the money from me via debt collectors. I send them all the statements I’ve collected from various education centers, all of them indicating that I am not liable for the tuition. When I call them and show them, again, that I already paid the Army back, they tell me again that it was a “mistake” in their system.
While I haven’t suffered financially as a result of AIU, there are certainly students out there who have. The new legislation from Maryland is a promising step forward, ensuring that there is accountability in the for-profit education sector.
It is my hope that the rest of the states in our great union will follow Maryland’s lead and protect their veteran students.
(Image by succo from Pixabay.com)
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