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Protecting Military Students

Holly Petraeus

Holly Petraeus, the Assistant Director for Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently spoke at the DoD Worldwide Education Symposium in Las Vegas. Mrs. Petraeus, who has been at the CFPB for a year and a half, spoke about the administration’s efforts to protect servicemembers and veterans from the predatory marketing practices and poor quality of education at some for-profit schools.

Mrs. Petraeus told the symposium participants about her offices work with state officials to “tackle deceptive college lead-generation websites, like GIBill.com.” As a result of the CFPB and state’s Attorneys General efforts, the owners of the GIBill.com website were ordered to hand the domain name over to the VA (read the full article). She also spoke about President Obama’s Executive Order which will establish “principles of excellence for educational institutions serving military personnel, veterans, and their families.”

Participants also learned about the CFPB’s work to create the “Know Before You Owe” tool, which is designed to help prospective students make cost comparisons of college degree programs and compare financial-aid (database includes military benefit information) offers from various institutions before they enroll. Petraeus referred to it as a “financial aid shopping sheet.” A beta version can be found on the ConsumerFinance.gov website.

In addition to speaking about the current efforts of the CFPB, Mrs. Petraus shared some tips for education service officers and Navy college office counselors. “First of all, keep informed on the new tools and complaint portal that are being addressed through the Executive Order and encourage servicemembers to use them once they are available,” she said.

ESO Tips for dealing with schools:

  • Ask how many students take out additional debt beyond using their military benefits. Ask what their student-loan default rates are. Ask how many students take out private student loans.
  • Ask them about their accreditation and whether they are sure it is accepted for the jobs they tout.
  • Ask if their credits transfer to other schools.
  • Ask them the percentage of their students who find employment in the field they studied for.
  • Ask how many students graduate from the program they started.
  • Ask how many actually sit for the licensing exam in the vocational program they start. Ask them how many pass.
  • Ask how many career counselors they have to serve their students.

ESO Tips for dealing with prospective students:

  • Ask them if they looked at other schools to compare costs.
  • Ask if they know if their military benefits will cover the cost. If not, how do they plan to cover the rest? What has the school told them about financial aid?
  • Ask if they know anything about the school, besides the fact that it has a lot of military students and they heard that it was “military friendly.”
  • Ask if they’ve thought beyond promotion points, to whether their credits will transfer to another college or any civilian employer will recognize that degree.
  • Remind them that they can only spend their military education benefits once, and ask if they feel like they’ve really done their homework on what may be the most expensive purchase they will ever make.

Mrs. Petraeus closed by reminding her audience to “be outspoken if you feel like something is wrong.” Adding, “file a complaint with us at ConsumerFinance.gov and/or reach out to your state Attorney General. Push complaints up your chain of command.”

Visit the CFPB website to read Holly Petraues's remarks.

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GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill
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