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Durbin Asks DOD to Step-up Efforts to Protect Service members from Poor-Performing Colleges and Abusive Recruiting

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 9, 2011.  In light of a recent GAO Report that found that the Department of Defense (DOD) lacks basic oversight mechanisms of the Tuition Assistance program, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to do more to protect students and taxpayers from the worst excesses of the for-profit industry. According to the study, less than a third of the courses offered to military members have been reviewed.

“I understand that you have begun to address concerns regarding for-profit colleges and would appreciate an update on actions the Department has taken to ensure compliance and oversight in the interests of servicemembers and taxpayers,” said Durbin. “Please include specific information on education providers that have been debarred from military installations or otherwise denied access to voluntary education funds. We owe it to members of the military who pursue further education to ensure that their efforts and taxpayer dollars are going toward a degree of real value and meaning.”

Last week, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Texas Veterans Commission disqualified three Westwood College campuses from receiving GI Bill benefits after finding erroneous, deceptive, and misleading advertising and enrollment practices. In today’s letter Durbin pointed out that despite the VA’s announcement, Westwood’s website targeting military applicants shows that Tuition Assistance and Tuition Assistance “Top-Up” remain key components of their military recruitment strategy.

[Text of letter below]

March 9, 2011

The Honorable Robert Gates

Secretary of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20330-1670

Dear Secretary Gates:

I write to request additional information regarding the Department’s voluntary education programs in light of information that has recently come to light. Federal agencies responsible for administering education funding can and must do more to protect students and taxpayers from the worst excess of the for-profit industry.

Earlier this month, the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on abuses of the Department’s Tuition Assistance Program, coinciding with the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the subject. The GAO found serious problems with the ways in which the Department monitors the industry and potential negative experiences of military members.

Also this month, we learned that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) and the Texas Veterans Commission withdrew eligibility from three Westwood College campuses after finding erroneous, deceptive, and misleading advertising and enrollment practices. Even following the VA suspension, Westwood’s website targeting military applicants shows that Tuition Assistance and Tuition Assistance “Top-Up” remain key components of their military recruitment strategy.

I understand that you have begun to address concerns regarding for-profit colleges and would appreciate an update on actions the Department has taken to proactively ensure compliance and oversight in the interests of servicemembers and taxpayers. Please include specific information on education providers that have been debarred from military installations or otherwise denied access to voluntary education funds.

We owe it to members of the military who pursue further education to ensure that their efforts and taxpayer dollars are going toward a degree of real value and meaning. I am confident you share these concerns and look forward to working with you to step up oversight of the Department’s voluntary education programs.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator

Source: durbin.senate.gov

 

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