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We can't wait: Pres. Obama takes action

BY GUEST COLUMN | APRIL 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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Today, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will visit Fort Stewart in Georgia, where the president will sign an executive order to help ensure all of America's service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed educational decisions and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions.

We have a sacred trust with those who serve and protect our nation. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. That's why Obama is committed to ensuring veterans and service members have the chance to get a college education and can find work when they return from service.

Since the post-9/11 GI Bill became law, there have been reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting of service members, veterans, and their families by educational institutions, particularly for-profit career colleges.

For example, some institutions have recruited veterans with serious brain injuries and emotional vulnerabilities without providing academic support and counseling; encouraged service members, veterans, and their families to take out costly institutional loans rather than encouraging them to apply for federal student aid first; engaged in misleading recruiting practices on military installations; and have not disclosed meaningful information that allows potential students to determine whether the institution has a good record of graduating service members, veterans, and their families and positioning them for success in the workforce. 

Members of Congress have introduced legislation to address these issues, but the administration believes we must do all we can administratively to protect veterans from these deceptive practices by improving the quality of information and services that these schools must provide. 

These steps will help ensure that federal military and veteran education dollars are well-spent. Today's executive order will apply to a variety of military and veteran education benefits, including the GI Bill, Tuition Assistance Program, and Military Spouse Career Advancement Account Program.

The executive order will require that colleges provide more transparent information about their outcomes and financial aid options for students, which will help ensure that students are aware of the true cost and likelihood of completion prior to enrolling.

According to the Senate HELP Committee, of the 10 educational institutions collecting the most post-9/11 GI Bill benefits between 2009 and 2011, eight were for-profit schools. Six of these schools had bachelor student withdrawal rates above 50 percent.

The executive order will require that the Know Before You Owe financial aid form, developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education, is made available to every college student that participates in the Department of Defense's Tuition Assistance Program (nearly 2,000 schools).

The executive order will also direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to encourage all schools — roughly 6,000 in total — participating in the GI Bill program to provide the Know Before You Owe form. 

This form provides students with critical information on tuition and fees, the availability of federal financial aid, estimated student loan debt upon graduation, and information about student outcomes like graduation rates.

Further, the Executive Order will require that students are provided additional critical information, including school performance information over time, consumer protection information, and key financial aid documents, prior to the use of their benefits through the eBenefits portal. The VA will publicly post on their website if schools who receive GI Bill benefits agree to adhere to the executive order. 

Office of the Press Secretary
The White House


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