First it was Corinthian Colleges in 2015. Then ITT closed its campuses in September 2016. Westech College closed their three locations in Southern California as of April 2, 2017. Add Daniel Webster College in Nashua, NH to the list; it too will be shuttering its doors at the end of this academic year.
In each of these schools, veterans were among students that got hurt. Veterans used their Post 9/11 GI Bill to go to school and not only did their monthly housing allowance and book stipend payments stop when the school closed, but they lost months of entitlement and have nothing to show for it.
And the agency that could (and wants) to help has their hands tied by regulations. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not have the legal authority to restore lost GI Bill entitlement.
The Westtech closure was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the American Legion was concerned. Recently they called on Congress to enact legislation that would protect veterans and their education benefits in the case of school closures. In a statement, their National Commander Charles Schmidt said “It continues to be a shame that there are no federal regulations that allow these student veterans to restore their lost benefits or seek remedy for their financial hardship.”
Legislative Help for Veterans Affected by School Closures
Specifically, they asked for support of HR 1216 – The Protecting Veterans From School Closures Act of 2017, a bill that if passed would restore GI Bill entitlement for courses that were either not finished or not credited toward graduation requirements due to a school closure. Also, time lost as a result of school closure would not count against the 15-year window to use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and it would be retroactive back to August 2016.
While the August 2016 date would not help veterans going to school when Corinthian Colleges closed, it would help the ones after that date that were using their GI Bill when their school closed. At the time of writing, the bill had been referred to both the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the House Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.
And even if this bill does not pass in this legislative session, at least it raises awareness to the issue caused by predatory for-profit school closure and could lead the way to future legislation that could pass, thus righting this wrong.