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 McCainMcCain blasts Graham for refuting funeral remark about Kushner, Ivanka Trump Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Jack ReedJack ReedReforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping Senators ask Biden administration to fund program that helps people pay heating bills MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the committee; and committee member Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report 21 House Democrats call for removing IRS bank reporting proposal from spending bill Democrats try to back Manchin off killing paid family leave proposal 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 BrownCrucial talks on Biden agenda enter homestretch Senate Democrats propose penalties for Federal Reserve officials who don't follow ethics code When the Fed plays follow the leader, it steers us all toward inflation MORE (Ohio), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Manchin dampens progressive hopes for billionaires tax Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (Mass.), Richard DurbinDick DurbinPatience wears thin as Democrats miss deadlines 535 'presidents' with veto power: Why budget deal remains elusive After 35 years, Congress should finally end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine 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.