Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges

Groups urge Senate to oppose defense language on for-profit colleges
© Francis Rivera

Military and veterans groups are urging the Senate to rid its defense policy bill of language they say would allow predatory for-profit colleges unfettered access to military installations.

The 20 groups that have signed on to a letter to senators say the language undermines the Pentagon’s current process of using a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to decide which educational institutions to allow onto bases.

“The amendment would undermine the purpose of the Defense Department’s parameters under the MOU and their legitimate goal of ensuring service members are able to perform their military duties without being subjected to harassment by aggressive and unscrupulous college recruiters,” the groups wrote in letters to Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Trump aide's comment mocking McCain sparks outrage | Haspel gets another 'no' vote | Pompeo floats North Korea aid for denuclearization Politicians, media explode over White House aide's comments Senate Dems urge Trump to remain in Iran deal ahead of announcement MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the committee; and committee member Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump to hold Nashville rally amid efforts to boost GOP Senate hopeful Voters Dems need aren't impressed by anti-waterboarding showboating Overnight Finance: House rejects farm bill in conservative revolt | NAFTA deal remains elusive as talks drag on | Dodd-Frank rollback set for House vote MORE (D-W.V.).

At issue is language in the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow any educational institution that has signed an MOU and been approved by an installation's educational service office to provide advising and student support services on the installation “regardless of the particular learning modality offered by that institution.”

The language was added to the bill as an amendment proposed by Manchin during the committee’s markup.

In a press release after the committee’s passage of the bill, Manchin touted the amendment as a way to give service members greater access to education.

“Current legislation restricts a number of veteran and service member friendly educational institutions from accessing military installations, which makes it increasingly difficult for service members to continue their education while serving in uniform,” the release reads. “This amendment increases military retention by allow a pathway for currently service men and women to secure a better education, instead of feeling forced to retire due to a lack of options.”

But the groups argue the amendment is unnecessary. Right now, any institution wishing to participate in the Pentagon’s Tuition Assistance Program must sign an MOU.

“The MOU clearly provides for access and recognizes educational counseling as a legitimate reason for such access,” the groups wrote in their letter.

Only MOU signatories that agree to abide by federal rules on misleading recruiting are allowed on bases, the letter adds.

“Despite these existing DOD regulations, we remain concerned that some educational institutions are still engaged in misleading and aggressive recruiting on military installations,” they wrote. “Weakening the existing DOD regulations is the opposite of what servicemembers need right now.”

A group of Democratic senators, including Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Senate Dems call for probe into why Trump has not issued Russia sanctions MORE (Ohio), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenElizabeth Warren urges grads to fight for 'what is decent' in current political climate Tomi Lahren responds to genealogist's investigation of her family: 'She failed miserably' GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary MORE (Mass.), Richard DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Dem lawmaker spars with own party over prison reform Dem senators ask drug companies to list prices in ads MORE (Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), plan to introduce an amendment that would strip the bill of the language, according to a press release from the Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund.

In their letter to Manchin, the military and veterans groups urged him to support the senators’ amendment.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider the need for your amendment,” they wrote. “At a minimum, we request that you work with us to improve your amendment, to ensure it does not undercut sensible DOD protections against fraudulent and unduly aggressive recruiting under the guise of protecting school access.”

The letter was signed by the Air Force Sergeants Association, Air Force Women Officers Associated, Association of the United States Navy, Blue Star Families, Higher Ed Not Debt, Generation Progress, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National Association for Black Veterans, National Association of College Admissions Counseling, The Institute for College Access and Success, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association & Enlisted Association, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund, Veterans Education Success, Veterans Legal Clinic, University of San Diego Law School, VetJobs, VetsFirst, Vietnam Veterans of America and Young Invincibles.