In a response to the recent reports about student-veterans wasting their benefits by enrolling in schools that fail to confer relevant educational credentials and proper programmatic accreditation, a coalition of veteran service organizations and higher education groups has sent letters to Congress, the VA, and the White House laying out a plan to put an end to the problem.
The coalition includes the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Student Veterans of America; as well as a diverse group of advocates in non-profit and for-profit education including American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, American Council of Education, Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, National Association for College Admission Counseling, National Association of State Approving Agencies, and the University of Phoenix.
To their credit, the coalition has not joined the finger pointing and has instead taken the high road by focusing on the “root causes” – a potentially uninformed consumer inundated with bad information and no process for recovery.
As the VFW “Voice on the Hill’ article points out, there is no shortage of good helpful information to help veterans make informed decisions about how to use their education benefits. However, most of this information never reaches student-veterans. To address this issue, the coalition is seeking an overhaul to VA’s educational counseling procedures, mandating VA to actively contact veterans eligible for such counseling, asking those who wish to waive the benefit to “opt-out.”
In addition, veterans who feel they have been victims of fraud, waste or abuse, currently have little recourse. Unfortunately, most veterans simply blame themselves and give up. The coalition has asked VA to leverage its resources to create a formal complaint process to address student-veteran issues, allowing VA and other agencies responsible for student-veteran programs to take action.
This is a fresh approach and the coalition should be applauded for coming up with a positive approach to fixing this problem. However, the approach appears to miss one critical part of the problem – ill prepared veterans who start college without the academic skills they need to be successful.
Any robust program to combat the issue of high drop-out rates and wasted GI Bill benefits must include remedial academic assistance, placement exams, tutoring, and counseling. Take a look at the Veterans Upward Bound program offered by the Dept. of Education if you want to see a model program that makes a difference to veterans who need a leg up.