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.

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“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 McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNew York Times: Trump mulling whether to replace Mattis after midterms Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the committee; and committee member Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Cook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh 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 BrownSherrod Brown says he's 'not actively considering' running for president Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE (Ohio), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her More Massachusetts Voters Prefer Deval Patrick for President than Elizabeth Warren Trump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? MORE (Mass.), Richard DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment 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.