Durbin Leads Members of Congress in Calling on VA to Investigate ITT Tech - The Third Largest Recipient of GI Bill Benefits
22 Members of Congress say VA should disclose to veterans which schools are under state or federal investigation
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) and 20 of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) asking the Department to investigate ITT Tech – a for-profit college that is the third largest recipient of GI Bill benefits despite being under investigation by at least 18 state Attorneys General and being sued by two federal agencies.
“You know how critical GI Bill benefits are to our veterans and their families. In many cases they provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to ready our veterans for the productive lives they deserve after serving our country. That is why ITT Tech’s record is so troubling and requires immediate action,” the members wrote.
The members also asked for the VA Department to publicly disclose the schools that are under investigation or being sued by state or federal agencies as part of the GI Bill Comparison tool.
“At the very least, veterans deserve to know about the investigations and lawsuits ITT Tech and other schools face when deciding where to use their limited and well-earned GI Bill benefits,” the members wrote. “The VA has been a leader, with its GI Bill Comparison Tool, in working to provide useful information about institutions of higher education for veterans. We ask that the VA adapt this resource to provide veterans with information on the investigations and lawsuits a school faces where that information is publicly available.”
In addition to Durbin and Waters, the following members of Congress signed on to today’s letter: U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL), John Conyers (D-MI), Mark Takano (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Keith Ellison (D-MI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa).
Text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary McDonald:
We write today about the troubling practices of one of the largest recipients of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, ITT Tech, and ask you to take immediate action to protect veterans from exploitation and taxpayer dollars from being wasted.
According to a 2014 report by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under then-Chairman Tom Harkin, ITT Tech was the third largest recipient of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits in 2012-13. Over that period ITT Tech received $161 million in these funds. Using data from the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool, it appears that amount grew in 2014 to around $180 million.
You know how critical GI Bill benefits are to our veterans and their families. In many cases they provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to ready our veterans for the productive lives they deserve after serving our country. That is why ITT Tech’s record is so troubling and requires immediate action.
While ITT Tech continues to rake in GI Bill funding from veterans, the Department of Education has determined, through its Financial Responsibility Composite Score, that ITT Tech is not financially responsible and has taken additional steps to monitor the company. In addition, ITT Tech remains under scrutiny by various state and federal agencies, including investigations by at least 18 state Attorneys General related to marketing and recruiting, job placement rates, and other matters.
The New Mexico Attorney General is suing ITT Tech for making misrepresentations to students about its accreditation status and engaging in unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices. According to the Attorney General, ITT Tech falsely told students its nursing program held programmatic accreditation, which was required for students’ ITT Tech credits to count toward an advanced nursing program in New Mexico and ultimately get a job in nursing. The Attorney General also found that ITT Tech placed students into loans without their knowledge, falsely stated the number of credits a student had to take in order to push them into taking on more debt, failed to issue refunds of tuition and fees in compliance with federal law, and engaged in a variety of other despicable practices.
Further, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed suit against ITT Tech for predatory lending. According to CFPB, ITT Tech coerced students into high-cost private loans, with interest rates as high as 16.25%, that they knew were likely to end in default. The CFPB’s complaint states that it believes ITT Tech misrepresented future job prospects to lead students to believe they would be able to repay the loans. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged ITT Tech, CEO Kevin Modany, and CFO Daniel Fitzpatrick with fraud for concealing the poor performance and looming financial impact of its institutional loan programs from investors.
The Department of Education must take further steps to protect students and taxpayers from ITT Tech’s harmful practices. But given the large amount of federal funding ITT Tech receives from the VA, we would ask the same of your Department. We ask that, based on the enforcement actions and findings of the investigations and lawsuits by other state and federal agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs immediately conduct an investigation of ITT Tech and take action to protect veterans from being exploited and taxpayer dollars from being wasted.
At the very least, veterans deserve to know about the investigations and lawsuits ITT Tech and other schools face when deciding where to use their limited and well-earned GI Bill benefits. The VA has been a leader, with its GI Bill Comparison Tool, in working to provide useful information about institutions of higher education for veterans. We ask that the VA adapt this resource to provide veterans with information on the investigations and lawsuits a school faces where that information is publicly available. ITT Tech and other publicly traded companies provide this information to shareholders through required filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Veterans deserve the same information and the Comparison Tool is the obvious way to provide it to them.
Thank you for your consideration of our requests and we look forward to your prompt response.
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