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 McCainMcCain votes to advance ObamaCare repeal, replace after vowing to oppose Overnight Defense: House passes Russia sanctions deal | McCain returns to Senate | Watchdog opens criminal probe into M camo mistake Tough road ahead for McConnell on ObamaCare MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jack ReedJack ReedCollins apologizes for calling GOP rep 'so unattractive' on hot mic Overnight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding Senate panel rejects Trump’s effort to slash transportation funding MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the committee; and committee member Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin on GOP lawmaker’s suggestion for a duel with female senators: I’ll ‘step outside with him’ McCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Pressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned 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 BrownSenate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote GOP Senate candidate attacks Anti-Defamation League for ‘witchhunt' on far right Senate Banking leaders introduce flood insurance bill MORE (Ohio), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren: Entire country must speak up on GOP healthcare bill OPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 House votes to repeal consumer arbitration rule MORE (Mass.), Richard DurbinDick DurbinSenate Dem: We’re trying to block a recess appointment to replace Sessions Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Top Dem: Trump’s voter fraud commission will accomplish what Putin wants MORE (Ill.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem bill would ban controversial pesticide Trump attack puts Sessions in bind Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (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.