New federal Web site allows veterans to report abuses by colleges

(Paula Bronstein/Getty) (Paula Bronstein/Getty)

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments on Thursday launched a new Web site that allows student veterans to report colleges that try to take advantage of them and their educational benefits.

The online portal asks veterans for examples of institutions that use high-pressure recruiting tactics, issue false or misleading statements about degree and accreditation programs, or promote costly private loans.

The new Web site helps the VA and DOD comply with an executive order President Obama issued in April 2012, requiring them to act on each complaint, share them with law-enforcement agencies and conduct audits of schools that face serious or frequent allegations.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Thursday applauded the development of the site, which had been one of the group’s priorities for the past two years. “This new complaint process will be a game-changer for student veterans, who in the past didn’t have a standardized or secure system for reporting alleged abuses,” said VFW national commander William Thien.

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) commended the rollout in a statement on Thursday, saying it would help curb exploitation.

“Many for profit colleges specifically target veterans, using aggressive recruitment tactics that intentionally invoke pain and fear to pressure veterans into enrolling,” Takano said. “This Web site will provide a space for our student veterans to report these abuses.”

In 2012, Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released a scathing report on for-profit colleges, saying a sampling of dozens of schools over a two-year period found a 54-percent dropout rate, tuition levels that exceeded those of public universities and inflated job-placement claims.

The analysis also showed that the schools spent more on marketing and recruitment than student instruction.

Industry groups have disputed the findings from committee Democrats, arguing that for-profit schools meet most of their students’ needs and give low-income adults a chance at upward mobility.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.
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Josh Hicks · January 30, 2014