To Combat Fraud, Colleges and Universities Must Report Veteran Student Outcome Data
I joined the military at 17 to earn college allowances after losing my dad, a Navy veteran, to suicide and my mom in a head-on car crash. Today, I am proudly an alumnus of two of the country’s most prestigious universities: Fordham University and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. I made it through the military-to-civilian transition, have a great job and feel miles away from the foster care hearing I attended 11 years ago. The kindness of others, the veteran student support organizations and the GI Bill have given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to determine the academic performance of other students like me, because the Higher Education Authorization Act (the most important law on higher education) does not oblige institutions to report comprehensively the data of the students. veteran students. As part of the HEA, participating aid-eligible institutions are required to report a plethora of information, ranging from employment outcomes to student loan default and graduation rates, broken down by race. , gender and help status. These data are collected through surveys and generally published in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System of the Department of Education.
Although the Department of Education collects some data on student veterans, it generally does not distinguish student veterans from traditional students. The Department of Veterans Affairs collects and publishes certain outcome data, such as retention, persistence, and graduation rates. However, the data is incomplete because the declaration is optional. For example, VA has veteran-specific retention and persistence rates for just 222 schools, compared to about 3,400 schools that reported the same measure for traditional students.
The lack of precise data on the performance of veteran students is clearly documented. In 2017, Student Veterans of America published groundbreaking research describing the difficulties of “collecting, analyzing and interpreting the academic results of veteran students due to poor collection methods, narrow inclusion criteria, and errors in identification. veteran students ”. In 2019, the Congressional Budget Office released a report citing their difficulties in differentiating GI Bill recipients from active-duty military students. In 2020, the Government Accountability Office released a report declaring the need for more comprehensive performance data to assess programs designed to serve disadvantaged students, including veterans.
Veteran students continually bear the brunt of misleading advertising and fraud from schools seeking to exploit them for their hard-earned benefits under the GI Bill. Regulations such as the Paid Employment Rule have helped reduce abuse by ensuring that veteran students have paid employment and are financially able to repay their student loans after graduation. The rule required institutions to report performance indicators such as student debt ratios and employment rates. It saved billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on underperforming degree mills producing unnecessary degrees. Sadly, despite its overwhelming support from 34 of the largest veterans service organizations, the paid employment rule was repealed in 2019.
Access to accurate data on the performance of veteran students is the keystone of protections such as the paid employment rule. Without it, advocates and researchers will not be able to guarantee that veteran students are not crippled by loan debt or identify bad schools. This is a crucial step. Like 62% of veteran students, I am a first generation student. We do not have the privilege of calling our family for help or advice in navigating higher education, as we are doing it for the first time.
The Department of Education held the first of several hearings in June to seek public comment to develop new regulations under the HEA. When announcing the hearings, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said: “The primary responsibility of the Ministry of Education is to serve students and borrowers. If so, regulations under the HEA should require colleges and universities to differentiate GI Bill beneficiaries from the traditional student body in all data reports. Where data collection overlaps, the ministry should create data sharing agreements to better consolidate and publish this data for easy access by researchers and advocates.
Deliberately identifying veterans in data reports will increase transparency in how the government spends taxpayer dollars, ensure adequate protections for student veterans, and hold organizations that receive billions in GI Bill funding each year. for responsible. We can measure the effectiveness of veteran student support services on campus and veteran service programs. We can protect our veteran students, preserve the legacy of the GI Bill, and help more students move up the academic and economic ladders.
Priced at around $ 12 billion per year, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is VA’s most expensive education program, accounting for nearly 20% of all federal higher education spending. The American people deserve access to comprehensive data on veteran student achievement, and the Department of Education is uniquely positioned to provide it.
Wesley Wilson is currently a Veteran Student at American University and Senior Analyst at Grant Thornton Public Sector LLC. He is also an associate researcher with the High Ground Veterans Advocacy and a former research associate at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The opinions expressed here are his own.