Military Affairs beat: Online complaints system will identify colleges that cheat student veterans

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2014 - 7:12 PM

An online complaints system that is expected to identify colleges that take advantage of student veterans and their military education benefits was launched last week to weed out fraud, waste and abuse.

The system was launched amid mounting criticism that some schools’ ubiquitous advertising campaigns can be manipulative and misleading, including hidden costs and deceptive claims about graduation and placement rates.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced last year that she was conducting an investigation into the practices of for-profit schools, particularly focusing on their marketing to veterans.

GI Bill benefits have become an attractive target. The federal government has paid out more than $34 billion in post-Sept. 11 GI Bill funds since that benefit began in fall 2009.

In Minnesota, more than $300 million has been paid to schools since 2009, and the number of programs approved for GI Bill funding continues to grow, increasing 30 percent in the past decade.

Since 2009, more than 200 institutions and almost 8,000 programs have been certified to receive GI Bill funding in Minnesota, even as government monitoring has been cut.

The new complaints system is designed to identify institutions of higher education that are involved in deceptive and misleading practices.

When feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution.

The cases are also forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network, which can be accessed by more than 650 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for use in coordinating law enforcement investigations.

Veterans who wish to file a complaint can go through the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

The complaints system also covers problems with active-duty students who use Defense Department tuition assistance programs.

 

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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