Durbin Presses VA Secretary To Protect Veterans From Predatory For-Profit Colleges

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin to discuss recent VA proposals related to the financial relationships of its employees with for-profit colleges and the for-profit college industry’s shameful record of preying on veterans.  In 2016, for-profit colleges received 34 percent of all VA GI Bill education funds or $1.7 billion – often using aggressive recruiting and misleading marketing to target veterans. 

“For-profit colleges have a long and shameful record of preying on the men and women who have served our country in uniform,” said Durbin.  “I will continue to press Secretary Shulkin and the VA to be aggressive in overseeing these institutions’ participation in the GI Bill program in order to protect veterans from wasting their hard earned education benefits.” 

Photos of today’s meeting are available here.

In September, the VA published in the Federal Register its intent to waive a 1996 federal conflict of interest law, which prohibits any VA employee from owning any interest in or receiving any wages, salary, dividends, profits, gratuities, or services from a for-profit college that receives GI Bill funds.  The VA’s proposal to waive the law for all of its employees ignored the ongoing risk for-profits pose to veterans and amounted to an overreach of its authority.  Amid opposition, including from Senators Durbin, Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the VA dropped its original proposal.  The VA has since publicly stated its intention to seek a narrower solution to address its concerns that the law has unintended consequences for VA employees, without responsibilities related to the GI Bill program, who wish to take classes or teach part-time at for-profit colleges.  In today’s meeting, Durbin encouraged Secretary Shulkin to ensure that any final policy does not create new loopholes for for-profit colleges to exploit and that waivers of the law be provided only on a case-by-case basis and apply only to limited activities, such as taking classes or teaching.

This week, Durbin will introduce the Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers (POST) Act, which would prohibit for-profit colleges and universities from receiving more than 85 percent of their revenue from the federal government and close the loophole in current law which excludes VA G.I. Bill and Department of Defense Tuition Assistance benefits from the calculation of federal funds.