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Relief Fund Helps Veterans Misled By Private Schools

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Four veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars recently were awarded $5,000 grants to help pay down student loan debt they racked up while attending for-profit colleges.

The grants came from the Veterans' Student Loan Relief Fund, a four-year-old organization that has helped more than 40 veterans it says have been misled into draining their GI Bill benefits and taking out onerous student loans.

It was created by Jerome Kohlberg, a World War II veteran and early champion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The relief fund accepts applications for grants of up to $5,000 for qualified active-duty military, veterans and family members who believe for-profit education companies have deceived them. For more information, go to iava.org/loan-relief.

The for-profit college industry has come under considerable fire in the last few years, particularly for how it has marketed itself as an attractive outlet for GI Bill benefits.

A 2014 report from the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, "Is the New G.I. Bill Working?" says bluntly: "The fact that so many veterans are continuing to enroll in high-cost, for-profit colleges with questionable outcomes raises questions regarding whether aggressive deceptive and misleading marketing efforts are continuing."

Although overall student enrollment fell at each of the eight top for-profit GI Bill schools, enrollment of veterans dramatically increased during the same period.

To date, 37 state attorneys general have launched investigations. Scores of for-profit colleges are facing lawsuits for unscrupulous business practices, including allegedly inadequate disclosures about accreditation.

Testimony has wrapped up in a Hennepin County District Court civil trial in which Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business, saying the two schools systematically misled students to believe that their degree programs would qualify them for careers in law enforcement.

The lawsuit also alleges that school officials made false statements about whether credits earned at the schools would transfer to other institutions, and that they misrepresented how well graduates did in the job market.

Several veterans have testified during the trial.

"Some for-profit schools are defrauding veterans, using misleading and aggressive marketing and recruiting tactics, while providing an inadequate education. The Veterans' Student Loan Relief Fund is helping veterans and their families get back on their feet financially," according to a statement from Matthew Boulay, a veteran and executive director of the fund.

In 2014, several federal agencies launched an online complaint system where veterans, service members, and their families can report problems with colleges and universities receiving federal education aid.

Veterans may submit their complaints to the following agencies, based on the aid received:

-- Department of Defense tuition or MyCAA Education Benefits: militaryonesource.mil/voluntary-education?content_id=274604.

-- Montgomery or Post-9/11 GI Bill, Department of Veterans Affairs: benefits.va.gov/gibill/feedback.asp.

-- Federal financial aid (such as Pell grants and federal loans), Department of Education: send e-mail to compliancecomplaints@ed.gov.

-- Private student loans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

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This article was written by MARK BRUNSWICK from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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