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Student Loan Relief Available for Veterans

In April, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) published a NAAGazette article addressing the pitfalls presented to military veterans and service members by certain for-profit educational institutions. The article, “Securing the Higher Education Marketplace for Returning Veterans,” garnered the attention of the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, an organization dedicated to helping military veterans, service members, and their families recover from the financial burdens arising out of incurring educational loans that remain unpaid as a result of being misled by a for-profit school.

Founded by Jerome Kohlber, World War II veteran and early champion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund provides grants of up to $5,000 to qualified military veterans, service members, and families who believe for-profit educational institutions have deceived them. To date, the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund has provided 31 grants, including nine this year alone. Moreover, through Sept. 15, 2014, the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund is accepting applications for an additional round of grants. Additional information on the grant program, including the grant application, is available at http://iava.org/loan-relief.

NAAG is proud to spread the news about the 2014 class of Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund grantees. The following is a portion of the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund’s statement released July 1.


 

Veterans Preyed Upon by For-Profit Colleges Receive Grants to Help Dig Out From Under Crushing Debt Burden

Nine veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were awarded grants of up to $5,000 to help pay down exorbitant student loan debt incurred while attending unscrupulous for-profit colleges. Since its founding in 2012, the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund has helped 31 veterans who have been misled into using up their GI benefits and taking out onerous student loans.

Many for-profit colleges promise “guaranteed” jobs to lure veterans into enrolling signing long-term contracts that ultimately exhaust their GI Bill benefits and leave them heavily in debt with substandard educations, non-transferable credits, worthless degrees or no degrees at all. The for-profits often see veterans returning from the frontlines as goldmines, since each one represents tens of thousands of dollars in federal benefits and access to subsidized student loans.

The new grantees are: Tristan Dyer, 33, US Army Sergeant, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Daphanie Johnson, 32, US Army Sergeant, Pensacola, Fla.; Lewis Massey, 30, National Guard Staff Sergeant, Vernal, Utah; Matthew Nollora, 30, US Army Sergeant, Glendale, Calif.; Massiel Rodriguez, 30, US Navy Boatswain’s Mate Seaman, Yonkers, N.Y.; Justin Rojas, 35, Marine and National Guard, Burgaw, N.C.; and Jeff Williams, US Army Sergeant, Newport, N.C. Two of the grant recipients requested that their names not be used.

“These young men and women have dearly earned the opportunity to attend college or career training programs. The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill before it are our country’s most important tools for helping Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans obtain the American dream,” said Matthew Boulay, executive director, Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund, and a veteran himself. “However, some for-profit schools are defrauding veterans, using misleading and aggressive marketing and recruiting tactics, while providing an inadequate education. The Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund is helping veterans and their families get back on their feet financially.”

Largely financed by taxpayer-funded scholarship and loan programs, for-profit institutions charge exorbitant tuitions and are rife with hidden fees, yet their dropout rates are dramatically high and student outcomes dismal. In fiscal 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense spent $660 million on tuition assistance, half of which went to for-profits. Eight of the 10 schools receiving the most GI Bill dollars are for-profit colleges, reaping $1 billion in GI Bill benefits in 2010 alone, according to a recent U.S. Senate Committee study. But, almost half a million veterans dropped out of these eight colleges within the first year – most of them within the first four months.

These deceptive practices have been well documented over the past few years. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), was one of the first to shine a light on for-profit colleges’ recruiting tactics in the wake of 2008’s Post-9/11 GI Bill. In 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order to protect vets from aggressive recruiting and recently proposed new rules to limit how much debt students can accumulate as a portion of the income they earn after graduation. The U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense and Education, and more than 30 state attorneys general have intensified their scrutiny of for-profits.

Online Complaint System

Earlier this year, several federal agencies came together to launch an online complaint system where veterans, service members, and their families can report problems with colleges and universities receiving federal education aid.

Veterans may submit their complaints to the following agencies based on aid received:

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