Indiana Governor Mike Pence is asking the VA to provide relief to veterans who attended ITT Technical Institute which shut its doors earlier this week. The now defunct private college had its headquarters in Carmel, IN, a suburb of Indianapolis.
Pence, who is Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's running mate, sent VA Secretary Robert McDonald a letter Friday, asking the VA to reinstate the GI Bill benefits of veterans affected by the closure of ITT Tech saying "We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude, and one way we show that is through the post-9/11 GI Bill, which allows these brave men and women to earn an education at the institution of their choice when they return from serving our nation."
Nearly 7,000 veterans were attending ITT Tech or planned to do so during an upcoming term, according to a recent email from Terry Jemison, a spokesperson for the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration, which oversees the educational program. The total enrollment at ITT Tech's 130 locations spread across 38 states topped 40,000.
Students who were receiving federal financial aid such as a student loans or Pell Grants for attending ITT Tech may be able to have their student loans forgiven, according to the Department of Education, which oversees federal financial aid programs. However, GI Bill recipients could be left out in the cold due to current federal law.
GI Bill recipients normally get a set amount of education benefits, enough to pay for 36 months of full-time training at a college or technical school. If a veteran used their GI Bill at ITT Tech for 2 years they would have essentially used 24 of those 36 months worth of education benefits. If the ITT Tech closing occurred before such a veteran received a diploma, the veteran would normally have to transfer to another school to complete their degree program. However, if another school does not accept credits for the training received at ITT Tech, the veteran's 24 months of GI Bill benefits used at ITT Tech are essentially wasted because the training the GI Bill paid for for did not result in a degree or transferable credits. Many traditional colleges won't accept ITT's credits. There is no provision in the current law governing GI Bill benefits that allows the VA to reinstate benefits to a veteran affected by a school's closing.
In his letter, Pence is asking the VA to reinstate GI Bill benefits to any any veteran who has used their benefits at ITT Technical Institute during the current calendar year, and has not yet received a degree from ITT Tech. However, the VA says that existing laws prevent them from taking such action. Their website states "VA does not have the legal authority to restore any GI Bill benefits you have used to attend ITT, even if you are not finished with the classes this term."
Last year a similar situation occurred when Corinthian Colleges shut down its 28 campuses after it declared bankruptcy as a result of a $300 million government fine. Congress attempted to make changes to existing laws at that time but the legislation, which attracted bipartisan support, stalled in Congress.