UI vets pleased with Obama executive order on college recruiting

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MAY 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Student veterans and military officials at the University of Iowa are glad to see a federal order restricting aggressive recruitment tactics by college recruiters.

President Obama signed the executive order Sunday, which calls for educational institutions receiving federal military funding to "prevent abusive and deceptive recruiting practices" by giving veterans standardized forms listing benefits and enrollment options. Higher-education establishments will also be required to work more closely with potential student veterans and allow more lenience if their service interferes with classes.

John Mikelson, the coordinator of the UI Veterans Center, said the university does not take the same measures as some other colleges to recruit veterans and active-duty soldiers.

"The University of Iowa has always welcomed veterans back in the community," he said. "But we are not aggressively recruiting active-duty soldiers."

According to the order, some institutions have recruited veterans with injuries and emotional vulnerabilities without providing them proper support and have encouraged them to take out expensive institutional loans instead of the federal option.

The order primarily focuses on online, for-profit colleges, which Mikelson said are popular among service members with tight schedules.

"Some of these [online] programs are highly desirable because of the way the military trains," he said. "But others have caught on that the government will pay so much per credit hour. Not to say that there aren't some very good online schools, but there are some that are just out there for the money."

Veterans receive funding for a college education through the GI Bill, which was first passed in 1944.
Officials from DeVry University said they had been receiving many calls asking for their response to the bill but declined to comment.

Marine and UI Veterans Association Vice President Scott Lyon said he was glad to see an effort that could protect fellow service members, even though he wasn't recruited by the UI.

"As far as the GI benefits goes, I think [the order] is a good thing," the third-year law student said. "I think there was evidence of these schools abusing the benefits. I think it's not a bad thing that they're trying to rein in these colleges."

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, supported Obama's decision in a recent press release.

"I went to school on the GI Bill and know how important these benefits are for veterans' success," said Harkin, who served in the Navy from 1962 to 1967. "I applaud President Obama's leadership in protecting this generation of veterans against fraud and abuse and ensuring they receive the same quality education that my generation did."

Mikelson also said he supports the president's decision to create the executive order.

"I think that [Obama has] laid out some very simple principles for schools with integrity to call upon veterans," the former Army medic said. "I think that by making the schools sign agreements as far as legitimacy is just a consumer-protection step."

The ambiguity of the term "aggressive" allows for specific incidents to be assessed, Mikelson said.

"I think executive orders are written fairly vague on purpose so that the people on the ground can assess individual situations," he said.

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