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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Iraq and Vietnam-Era Veterans Call for Curbs on For-Profit Colleges’ Predatory Marketing Tactics



Boston, MA, January 7, 2014 – Iraq veteran Bryan Babcock joined other veterans in Boston today calling for tougher regulations to curb unscrupulous marketing practices used by for-profit education companies to entice students – particularly veterans – into enrolling in their expensive and, often, substandard programs. The veterans appeared at a public hearing convened by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Testimony was also submitted on behalf of numerous veterans’ organizations, including the Air Force Women Officers Association, Association of the United States Navy, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, National Guard Association of the United States, Student Veterans of America, Veterans Education Success, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund, VetsFirst - a Program of United Spinal Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, University of San Diego School of Law Initiative to Protect Student Veterans, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, and U.S. Coast Guard Enlisted Association.

Coakley’s proposed regulations would require all for-profit and occupational schools in Massachusetts to provide accurate information to the public, prohibit misleading advertising practices, and address unfair lending practices.

For-profit education companies specifically target veterans, since each one is eligible for tens of thousands of dollars in federal education benefits and student loans, and because military benefits are not counted towards a cap on federal funds that for-profit colleges otherwise face.

Babcock, from Bellevue, WA, flew across the country to testify, and told his personal story of how he was misled. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, including as Marine infantry during the second battle of Fallujah. Planning to become a policeman, Babcock testified that he enrolled in ITT’s $70,000-dollar bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice. But not one of the nearly two dozen police departments he applied to recognized an ITT degree. He was left heavily in debt and unable to pursue a career in law enforcement. He felt he had no choice but to reenlist and return to Iraq – this time as a National Guardsman.

“I wasted three years and more than $50,000 for a piece of paper no one would accept,” Babcock said. “It sickens me that ITT Tech is allowed to get away with this. And, I am not alone. Beyond misrepresenting themselves, ITT Tech, and other companies like it, are offering degrees and certificates that do not allow graduates to obtain licenses, certificates, or other pre-requisites necessary for employment in fields that have such requirements.”

Babcock sought and received financial assistance from the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, a non-profit organization established by World War II veteran and Wall Street businessman Jerome Kohlberg to help veterans who believe they have been deceived by for-profit education companies. He is one of 21 student veterans who have received grants from the fund.

Carrie Wofford, current President of Veterans for Education Success, also testified on behalf of a dozen veterans organizations that tough regulations are needed to protect veterans from aggressive and deceptive recruiting by predatory education companies.

“Predatory for-profit colleges dishonor our nation’s veterans, actively deceiving them to get access to their lucrative GI Bill benefits.  We should honor the men and women who have sacrificed for our country, not rip them off.  We applaud the Attorney General’s common sense rules to stop deceptive marketing and recruiting by for-profit colleges,” Wofford said. 

Wofford is the former Senior Committee Counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), which conducted a two-year investigation into the for-profit higher education industry, culminating in a highly critical report of the industry in 2012.  The Senate investigation also unveiled corporate documents, including ITT’s infamous “pain funnel” (attached).
For more information about the hearings, visit these websites:

             Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund: http://iava.org/loan-relief
             Mass AG Press Release: http://www.mass.gov/ago/news-and-updates/press-releases/2013/2013-11-21-aci-complaint-regs.html
             U.S. Senate Committee Report, “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success,” available at http://www.harkin.senate.gov/help/forprofitcolleges.cfm

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