Showing posts with label Post-9/11 GI Bill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Post-9/11 GI Bill. Show all posts

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Senator Tom Harkin is Like a Shade-Tree Mechanic--He Can Tell You What's Wrong With the Student Loan Program, But He Can't Fix It: Veterans, The New GI Bill and the For-Profit Colleges

Photo credit: autoguide.com
Senator Tom Harkin reminds me of the shade-tree mechanics I patronized when I was young and poor and drove old cars,  I would drive my junker up to some Mom-and-Pop mechanic shop, the mechanic would accurately diagnose what was wrong with my car, and then he would say he couldn't fix it.

Senator Harkin did the public a major service when he chaired the committee that reported on the for-profit colleges a couple of years. In a massive report--over a thousand pages when the appendices are included, the Harkin committee spelled out the many abuses in the for-profit college industry.

Since that report was issued, almost nothing has been done to rein in the rapacious for-profit colleges, which suck up about a quarter of all federal student aid money and only enroll about 11 percent of the students.

Last July, Senator Harkinn's Senate Committee has issued a second important report. This one focuses on the way the for--profits have made out like bandits with programs targeted at veterans who have gone to college under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Here is a summary of the Harkin Report's findings:

  • Eight of the 10 top recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are large, publicly traded companies that operate for-profit colleges. These eight companies received 23 percent of all the Post-9/11 GI bill money for 2012-2013.
  • Seven of those 8 companies are currently under investigation by state attorney generals offices or the federal government for deceptive or misleading recruiting or possible violations of federal law. 
  • The number of veterans attending public colleges has declined between 2009 and 2013 while the number of veterans who attend for-profit colleges has increased.
  • Although overall enrollment at the eight top for-profit beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 GI Bill has declined in recent years , the number of veterans who enrolled at these schools has increased.
Why are veterans so attractive to the for-profit colleges? As the Harkin Report explains, the Higher Education Act requires that the for-profits operate under the 90/10 rule. In other words, they can only receive 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid money.  However, money received under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is not counted as part of the 90 percent.

Thus, for-profits who are getting 90 percent or close to 90 percent of their revenue from the general federal student-aid program can get that last ten percent of their by enrolling veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

This would be fine, I suppose, if the for-profits were doing a bang-up job of educating veterans and preparing them for good post-military jobs. But apparently they are not. 

The Harkin Report found that "[a]t the for-profit colleges currently receiving the most benefits, up to 66 percent of students withdrew without a degree or diploma" (p. ii).  The Report also found:
Between 39 and 57 percent of the programs offered by four of the companies receiving he most Post-9/11 GI bill benefits would fail to meet the proposed gainful employment rule, suggesting that the students who attend these institutions do not earn enough to pay back the debt they take on.  (p. ii)
As the Harkin Report put it, some for-profit colleges "appear to be taking advantage of a loophole to use Post-9/11 GI Bill funds to comply with the federal requirement that no more than 90 percent of revenue come from federal student aid" (p. ii).

And of course, this cozy arrangement for the for-profits is costing tax payers, "who are paying twice as much on average to send a veteran to a for-profit college for a year compared to the cost at a public college or university ($7,972 versus $3,914)" (p. ii).

The Harkin Committee Report makes interesting reading, but the Committee made no significant recommendations.  It is the latest in a series of reports showing that students are being ill-served by and large by the for-profit college industry.  These schools charge far more for their programs than comparable programs offered by public universities and community colleges. They have very high student-loan default rates and high student dropout rates, and very often they are enrolling students through deceptive recruiting practices and are putting students into programs that are not likely to lead to well-paying jobs.

Why don't we do something about this?  Because the for-profits have very good lobbyists and lawyers sand they make strategic campaign contributions to key federal legislators.

Thus, in the end, the latest report by Senator Harkin's Committee is very much like my fruitless conversations with the shade-tree mechanics of my youth.  "Buddy, your car is in dire need of repair, but we can't fix it."

References

Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman). Is the New GI Bill Working?: For-Profit Colleges Increasing Veteran Enrollment and Federal Funds, July 30, 2014.   Washington, DC: United States Senate. Accessible at http://www.harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/53d8f7f69102e.pdf



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The For-Profits "Are Making Out Like a Bandit": Will Sheriff Obama Round Up those Bad Boys?

In a question-and-answer session with college students at SUNY at Binghamton, President Obama made clear that he understands what's wrong with the for-profit colleges.

 [T]here have been some schools that are notorious for getting students in, getting a bunch of grant money, having those students take out a lot of loans, making big profits, but having really low graduation rates. Students aren’t getting what they need to be prepared for a particular field. They get out of these for-profit schools loaded down with enormous debt. They can’t find a job. They default. The taxpayer ends up holding the bag. Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit. That’s a problem.
President Obama also said he understands that some for-profits are exploiting our military veterans:
[T]hey’ve been preyed upon very badly by some of these for-profit institutions.... Because what happened was these for-profit schools saw this Post-9/11 GI Bill, that there was a whole bunch of money that the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans got a good education, and they started advertising to these young people, signing them up, getting them to take a bunch of loans, but they weren’t delivering a good product.
 Indeed, Senator Tom Harkin's Senate Committee report on the for-profits found that the for-profits soaked up a huge share of the money made available to military veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a law designed to extend educational benefits to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Some for-profits are "making out like a bandit"
According to the report, the for-profits trained 25 percent of the participating veterans but received 37 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill money during the first two years the program was in place.  Eight of the top 10 education providers during that two-year period were for-profits, including the owners of the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Kaplan University (pages 27-28 of Harkin report).

Among the top ten participating institutions in this veterans program, the eight for-profits had the highest student withdrawal rates.  Apollo's student withdrawal rates for bachelor's degree programs was more than 50 percent. Kaplan Higher Education Corporation (owner of Kaplan University) had a 68 percent withdrawal rate for its four-year programs (page 29 of the Harkin report).

Will the Obama administration and Arne Duncan's Department of Education rein in these bad boys? I'm not sure. President Obama made it abundantly clear that he is willing for the federal government to continue funding for-profit colleges--the largest of which are publicly traded corporations or institutions owned by private equity groups.

 "For-profit institutions in a lot of sectors of our lives obviously [are] the cornerstone of our economy," President Obama said at the Binghamton gathering. "And we want to encourage entrepreneurship and new ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing things. So I’m not against for-profit institutions, generally."

President Obama's approach to for-profit colleges is basically in harmony with the Harkin Committee's viewpoint.  Like President Obama, the Harkin Committee acknowledged a place for the for-profit sector in higher education.  The Committee expressed the view that the public sector and nonprofit private colleges do not have the capacity to educate all the postsecondary students who want to be educated.

Personally, I disagree.  Why should the federal government pump $30 billion a year into the for-profit colleges in the form of federal student aid, when it is absolutely clear that the for-profit colleges have an overall poor record of performance and catastrophically high student-loan default rates? Shouldn't that money be going to the public institutions--particularly our community colleges?

So far, President Obama has been unwilling to take aggressive action to clean up or close the for-profit college industry.   For the time being at least, the for-profits will continue to "make out like a bandit," and President Obama will continue to critize them but do little or nothing to bring them under control.

References

Paul Fain & Scott Jaschik. Obama on Non-Profits. Inside Higher Education, August 26, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/26/obama-speaks-directly-profit-higher-education-noting-concerns-sector

United States Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success. July 2012. Accessible at: http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/for_profit_report/PartI.pdf

Note: All quotes come from the Inside Higher Education article cited above.