The Federal Trade Commission is advising servicemembers, veterans, and their families that some for-profit schools may be more interested in gaining access to their post 9/11 GI Bill benefits than helping them fulfill their education goals. To help servicemembers identify a school that will meet their needs as they transition to student status, the FTC released a new tip sheet.
The guidance, 8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a College, encourages servicemembers, veterans and their families to carefully assess the schools they’re interested in attending, whether working toward a certificate or a higher degree. Using words such as “veteran” or “military-approved” may not necessarily equate to better education and support.
“We want to help students evaluate their options and spend their education dollars wisely,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Knowing the right questions to ask can help students and their family members avoid some unnecessary pitfalls as they pick the program that’s right for them.”
According to the FTC, some for-profit schools may stretch the truth to encourage enrollment, either by exerting pressure on servicemembers to sign up for unnecessary courses or to take out loans that might be a challenge to pay off. The agency’s tip sheet steers applicants to the Department of Education’s College Navigator to get information about a school’s for-profit or non-profit status.
When looking at educational opportunities, the FTC said students should find out the total cost of attending a school, and plan for expenses that may not be covered by their veterans’ benefits. Of the recent graduates who borrowed money to attend the school, what percentage is delinquent in paying back those loans? Students should specifically ask about how the education and training can lead to job opportunities after graduation, and ask the school to support what it says in writing. Will a degree from this school get the student where they want to go? What percentage of students graduate?
Students also should ask if the school is committed to helping veterans. If so, how? What campus support is available specifically for veterans for academic, career, housing, and medical? Can they get credit for their military training?
Additional questions to ask of a school include: Is the school accredited? Will credits transfer to another school? Is there pressure to enroll?
Anyone who encounters a school that has not lived up to their promises should file a complaint with the FTC.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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