Blocking GI Bill Funds from Career Schools Limits Veterans’ Educational Freedom

Blocking GI Bill Funds from Career Schools Limits Veterans’ Educational Freedom
AP Photo/Daily News-Record, Michael Reilly

When veterans return home after serving our nation, they should be welcomed with open arms by their local communities who stand ready to help with reentry to civilian life. For many veterans, successful reentry hinges upon pursuing higher education, including at a career or vocational school.

Legislation recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) will take these efforts a step further by removing the ability of veterans and active military to use their GI Bill or DOD tuition assistance at career and vocational schools.

These efforts are reflective of a disturbing pattern by some in Congress who have long shielded public and non-profit colleges from the same transparency mechanisms required of proprietary schools. It’s worth noting that Congresswoman Shalala previously served as President of the University of Miami, which is a school that would be excluded from her proposed legislation.

Currently the 90/10 rule, a federal student aid eligibility rule that requires proprietary schools to derive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal aid, allows GI Bill benefits to be accounted for under that 10 percent. By counting the GI Bill against a school’s compliance with the 90/10 rule, this bill groups veterans in with all federal aid borrowers. But the GI bill is different. Veterans earned these benefits and should be able to use them how they choose. Such a drastic change would completely redefine the very nature of veterans benefits by considering them equivalent to federal subsidies.

What’s worse, this legislation has very serious potential to negatively impact nearly 260 career schools serving over 158,000 student veterans. This comes at a time when in 2018 alone, over 326,000 veterans were unemployed.

Cosmetology schools are one type of career school that has long provided the military community with critical skills necessary to enter a high-demand field. As an industry, our schools are proud to serve tens of thousands of veteran students, and we take seriously our obligation to provide a pathway to the civilian workforce.

Changes to the law as it stands would make it increasingly difficult for many cosmetology schools to survive and continue to serve our students—especially our veteran students and their family members who seek the training our schools provide.

Cosmetology schools offer a pathway to state licensure and prepare students to enter a growing industry with thousands of job openings across the country. Employers rely upon our graduates.

But our industry isn’t the only one under attack. This move would also hurt veterans studying at technical schools, nursing schools, and many other vocational schools.

While it’s important to root out bad actors and predatory educational institutions, this legislation threatens the viability of legitimate, well-intentioned, and reputable schools, including many American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) member schools.

Further, if this legislation were applied across the board, according to the Brookings Institution, it’s estimated that 80 percent of public two-year colleges as well as 40 percent of public four-year colleges would fail.

Congress must reconsider supporting such a harmful bill. While disguised as a way to protect the military community, Rep. Shalala’s bill simply targets student veterans who rely on this earned benefit to obtain an education in order to successfully transition to civilian life. 

Creating unnecessary barriers is a disservice to our veterans and we urge members of Congress to consider the consequences of this bill and allow our schools to serve those who have bravely served us.

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