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Senators Question Where GI Bill Money Is Spent

6:19 PM, Dec 5, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. - Amanda Jackson couldn't be prouder of her new nursing diploma. An Army surgical technician for four-and-a-half years, the GI Bill paid for her tuition to ECPI University. 

"I wasn't going to be able to go to college any other way," she said.

Since the new GI Bill took effect in 2009, the government has given veterans more than $30 billion. Veterans rightfully earn education benefits under the GI Bill. Who can argue that? But now some lawmakers are now questioning where those veterans spend your tax dollars.

The main sticking point here is for-profit schools. Schools like ECPI, Virginia College or the University of Phoenix. Right now, those types of schools can get 90-percent of their funding from tax dollars. If a vet chooses to use their GI Bill funds to go to a for-profit school - it doesn't count toward that 90 percent. But the Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers bill wants to change that. It would cap for-profits to 85 percent federal funding and a vet's GI Bill money would be included in that cap - possibly limiting where veterans can use those funds.

Of the 10 schools getting the most GI Bill money, eight are for-profit. Let's look at the number one, Apollo Education Group, as an example. It runs the University of Phoenix. In 2010 Apollo collected $144 million dollars in GI Bill funds. They made another $3.8 billion in other federal funding. And they made $586 million dollars in profit.

"In an era of spending cuts and austerity, what are federal taxpayers doing sending so much money to a private sector company that's so profitable," said POST Act co-sponsor Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Durbin is also worried about the quality of the education. You see 15 percent of all students nationwide are enrolled in for-profit schools. But those same for-profit students make up about 46 percent of all student loan defaults.

"Some of these schools are good, make no mistake, but many are not," Durbin said.

The Military Times, which is also owned by our parent company Gannett, ranked schools best for vets. Amanda's school, ECPI, took home top honors. ECPI's Director of Military Education, Bob Larned, believes these schools can be better suited to the needs of veterans.

"They want the opportunity to get their education completed in a short period of time, so they like the fact that we go to school all-year round," Larned said.

Amanda agreed. She got a job right after graduation, and wants other vets to have the same opportunity when it comes to GI Bill money.

"Those are my benefits, I should be able to use them where I want. My battle buddies should be able to use them where they want,"  she said.

However there are several national organizations -- including the Military Officers Association of America - that have come out in support of the bill.

This bill would also require the Department of Defense to better track data on graduation rates from GI students. That's something 2 Wants To Know's investigated before

We're not really close to a resolution as the bill was just sent to the Education Committee, but we'll keep an eye on its progress and be sure to bring you any updates.

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