11 Attorneys General Agree: For-Profit Colleges Shouldn’t Have Unfettered Access To Military Bases

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A number of for-profit college chains market their schools directly to active-duty U.S. servicemembers, sometimes going too far in the process. Now a group of state attorneys general are voicing their concern that a new piece of legislation will weaken existing protections against overzealous recruitment of servicemembers by these controversial colleges.

In a letter [PDF] to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the attorneys general from California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania express their opposition to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow any college approved for military tuition benefits to have unrestricted access to recruit on military bases.

The AGs contend that the amendment would make servicemembers and veterans vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.

The amendment, they claim, undermines current Department of Defense rules intended to ensure servicemembers are able to perform their military duties without being subjected to harassment by aggressive and unscrupulous college recruiters.

The AGs argue that current regulations provide adequate access to servicemembers, as colleges already have sufficient access to military installations, especially for counseling purposes.

Existing DoD rules allow all schools fair access to military installations if they obtain permission, agree to make truthful disclosures to students, and avoid unduly aggressive and deceptive recruiting.

“Finally, we believe the stated rationale of your amendment, that the current DoD rules make it too difficult for servicemembers to obtain an education and that they need more access to schooling options, to be untrue,” the letter states, noting that feedback from servicemembers includes claims that they are victims of predatory, for-profit schools’ marketing.

“Predatory schemes targeting veterans are unconscionable,” Attorney General Kamala Harris, said in a statement. “The proposed amendment would weaken current rules intended to protect our servicemembers, and harm veterans by making them vulnerable to fraud and exploitation. We must protect our nation’s veterans and servicemembers from predators who would exploit them for their educational benefits.”

Legislators and regulators have recently taken a tougher stance when it comes to for-profit colleges and veterans and servicemembers.

In October, the Department of Defense put University of Phoenix on probation, meaning the school is barred from recruiting on U.S. military installations, and its participation in the DoD Tuition Assistance Program for active duty military personnel is on hold.

According to an earlier report from Reveal, the University of Phoenix received $20 million in military tuition assistance from the Pentagon last year and $1.2 billion in GI Bill benefits since 2009.

The Department of Defense announced it would take the University of Phoenix off probation, allowing the school to once again recruit on military bases and participate in servicemember tuition assistance programs.

The DOD freed the company of its probationary status based on an internal review, the school’s response to department concerns, and university administrators’ cooperation.

The college chain will still be subject to a “heightened compliance review” for a year, according to a Defense Department official.

Many of the AGs that signed onto this letter had previously signed on to another letter to the Veterans Affairs department, urging stronger protections for servicemembers who had been taken in by unscrupulous for-profit schools.