There’s a special circle of hell reserved for those who screw over veterans.

I’ve known many people throughout my life, and no one group has been more supportive, caring, diligent and honorable as my fellow veterans. That’s why it gets me so incensed when they’re taken advantage of. And many schools have been preying on veterans, seeing dollar signs due to the GI Bill. And ITT Tech is the focus of my ire today.


The Issue in Question

There are many different types of schools. When the people at IAVA were lobbying congress for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, they wanted to make sure that all veterans were able to use this benefit to further themselves after their service ended. As such, we have one of the most versatile benefit programs out there. It can be used for on the job training and apprenticeships, it can be used to get a pilot’s license and it can be used to just plain go to school.

Public colleges and universities get the majority of their funding from state and federal grants and subsidies, which makes them significantly cheaper. But those responsible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill wanted to make sure that a veteran could still use the benefit at private schools like Emory University in Georgia, Harvard in Massachusetts, and other prominent institutions. But with this loophole for private schools came the predators in the form of “For-profit Colleges.”

This doesn’t mean in the least we’re against “for-profit” anything, there’s simply a distinction that needs to be made here. Schools like Stanford are “private” schools, but are nonprofit organizations. This means that they are not affiliated with or subsidized by the state directly, yet extra money is not distributed to shareholders.

Nonprofit schools are required by law to meet certain criteria and are still held accountable for their actions. By comparison, for-profit schools have much less oversight and tend to have much lower graduation rates and much higher student loan default rates. However, there is a little bit of oversight simply because most of the attendees of for-profit colleges and universities are granted access to federal student loans, including the GI Bill.


ITT Tech’s Fiasco

ITT Technical Institute is a very well known for-profit college through its ad campaigns of the past decade. It has also traditionally cost a lot more money to go to, but they’ve often advertised job placement services that will make up for it.

An investigation showed the Department of Education that ITT Tech was getting the majority of its funding from taxpayer dollars and that the majority of its students weren’t even graduating. Thus, people were taking on loads of debt and the school was pocketing every dime. After the Department of Education shut off access to federal funding to the institution, it closed its doors.


How Veterans Got Screwed

In short, those with the GI Bill were still having to take out student loans in many instances to stay enrolled. When the school’s irresponsible and predatory practices resulted in its loss of funding, veterans stopped getting their housing allowances that are part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Anyone relying on this to pay bills was immediately cut off of this essential aid.

Additionally, many students in one piece by Gizmodo pointed out that they weren’t properly prepared for the fields in which they studied. And several sources placed ITT’s degree programs as some of the most expensive for-profit degrees in the nation, often taking advantage of people who were first-generation college students and unaware of other options.


Be Careful When Choosing Your Path

The lesson for the rest of us is this — make sure to do your due diligence when looking to take advantage of the benefits you’ve earned through your service. There are a lot of smooth-talking programs that are after your GI Bill money and will do nothing to actually help or enhance your career.

Most of these institutions try to set themselves up as “cutting edge” or providing “job placement” services. Take everything with a grain of salt. In general, the safest bets are going to be placed on nonprofit schools, state schools and the like. Often times, the best deals for veterans end up being community college programs that partner with four-year universities with transfer programs. These are usually easier to get into and give you added preparation before diving into the full degree program. If you are at the 100% level for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, this means that every penny of your college will be covered.

Just make sure to keep an eye out. Most of us in the military had to spend our time learning and employing an essential skill set that helped accomplish the mission. As such, many haven’t had much involvement at all in telling apart good schools from bad. Make sure to check in with the Post 9/11 GI Bill’s website. They have some great resources for ensuring that you’re covered and will make sure to answer your questions.