Monday, September 2, 2013
Information via The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:
President Obama recently proposed tying federal aid for higher education to graduates’ employment outcomes, but tracking results may be more difficult than the administration anticipates. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting posted its report Friday that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has not tracked graduation or retention rates for the nearly one million veterans who used GI Bill education benefits since 2009. The VA has provided $30 billion in veteran student aid under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act for undergraduate and graduate education and vocational training. Because Department of Veterans Affairs does not track student outcomes for veterans who receive student aid, there is little evidence about how the money helped them, making that aid more vulnerable to budget cuts or elimination. Failing to track student aid can also lead to educational institutions profiting from GI Bill money while being largely unaccountable for student veterans’ completion rates or marketable skills. In the first year of Post-9/11 Act payments, a few for-profit schools collected nearly as much funding as all public institutions—more than $639 million for 76,746 veterans, or an average of $8,337 for each student. (Public schools took in more than $696 million to educate 203,790 veterans, with spending averaging about $3,418 a student.) The University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, and the Art Institutes are known for aggressively courting veterans as students, an issue that Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has been investigating for two years.
Part of the problem is that the VA’s records contain duplicate entries for students who transfer schools, so the agency has not released a recent breakdown of payments to individual schools. In response to questions about student outcomes during a May 2013 audit, VA officials told the Government Accountability Office that the VA’s job is to provide benefits, “not to be responsible for veterans’ individual academic performance or goals.” The GAO report countered that the VA should collect outcome data to help students and “inform policymakers about the value veterans are receiving for the government’s substantial investment.” Spending on the Post-9/11 GI Bill is estimated to hit $42 billion next year, according to VA and White House projections. Read more here.