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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
Education

Vets told: Avoid ailing for-profit colleges

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— A national student veterans group is urging fellow military vets who are considering going back to school to avoid the Corinthian for-profit colleges, including Everest University campuses, which are on the market after Corinthian ran into trouble with federal investigators.

Student Veterans of America, which has 1,000 campus chapters across the country, this week created a “Not Recommended” list of colleges and named Corinthian’s Everest, Heald and WyoTech schools as its charter members. The group said that despite being forced by the U.S. Department of Education to sell 85 schools and shutter 12 more, Corinthian is continuing to actively recruit potential students, including active duty service members on military bases.

“I am disappointed to see institutions engage in such irresponsible behavior,” Student Veterans of America president and chief executive D. Wayne Robinson said in a statement announcing the list. “Even in a period of great uncertainty, these schools are on active duty installations recruiting students, while thousands of veterans and service members already enrolled face an unclear future.”

There are four Everest University campuses in the Tampa Bay area and six elsewhere in Florida. They are all expected to be sold under an agreement with the Department of Education that effectively dissolves Corinthian.

The Santa Ana, California-based company has been under investigation by the department and several state attorneys general, including Florida’s Pam Bondi, over allegations the company exaggerated job placement data and inflated grades and attendance in marketing claims to prospective students.

Veterans have been highly attractive prospects for for-profit colleges because those schools can collect no more than 90 percent of their revenues from federal financial aid sources. GI Bill benefits are not counted in that 90 percent. Further, most military benefits are grants rather than loans, which helps companies at risk of losing federal aid eligibility because of high student loan default rates.

A 2012 report on for-profits by a U.S. Senate committee — known as the Harkin Report for committee chair Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa — ripped the for-profit industry and its policy of military recruiting. The report said some schools recruited from the most vulnerable military populations, including those at wounded warrior centers and veterans hospitals.

“We don’t want people targeting veterans,” said Emma Scherer, Student Veterans of America’s director of communications. “We want to focus on protecting them and making them aware” of such recruiting tactics, she said.

Kent Jenkins Jr., a spokesman for Corinthian, said Student Veterans of America has consistently opposed career education and career schools.

“We strongly disagree with the ideological position they have taken,” Jenkins said. “There are clear independent facts that show we serve our students well generally, and we serve our students who are connected to the military exceptionally well.”

He declined to elaborate on whether the Corinthian schools are recruiting but acknowledged they continue to enroll students, as is allowed under the agreement with the Department of Education.

jstockfisch@tampatrib.com

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