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Have you had a bad experience with a for-profit college? Tell us about it.

 

You are not alone!

Tens of thousands of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are re-entering civilian life. For many, higher education and technical training pave the road to successful careers and new lives. The Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill and other federal funds have been made available to them, as well as access to student loans.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous, for-profit education companies are aggressively marketing to vets promising them high-quality educations and “guaranteed jobs,” neither of which is delivered. In fact, these companies’ classes are inordinately expensive. As a result the student vets not only exhaust their GI benefits but also build up mountains of student loan debt while often receiving non-transferable credits, worthless degrees, or no degrees at all.

The Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund provides grants of up to $5,000 to qualified vets to help them dig out from under the debt burden accumulated by attending predatory colleges. Otherwise financially responsible veterans and qualified family members who believe they have been misled by educational companies may apply. To date more than 35 veterans have been awarded grants. For complete guidelines and application, please visit http://iava.org/loan-relief.

Each veteran’s story is unique. Here are the experiences of three recent recipients of the Fund’s grants:

 

Bryan Babcock

Bryan Babcock, a 2013 Veterans Student Loan Relief Fund grant recipient, in Iraq.

Bryan Babcock, 36, Belleview, WA, Marine Infantry and National Guard, served in Iraq

In 2004, Bryan was a Marine on the front lines in the Second Battle of Fallujah. When he returned to the U.S., his goal was to earn a degree in law enforcement. He enrolled in a for-profit college, ITT Tech, which offered a bachelor’s degree in that field. But his dreams were dashed when he learned that, despite the school’s promises, virtually no police force would accept the criminal justice degree he was working toward. He had finished his third year, had drained his hard-earned GI Bill benefits and was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. His only recourse was to return to Iraq, this time in the National Guard. Today, he is getting by paycheck to paycheck, still paying off his student loans.

 

Steven Dickie, 42, Tuscon/Pheonix, AZ, Army, served in Iraq

Steve’s goal was to become a teacher. When he left the service, he enrolled full-time in a community college to get first an associates degree and then a bachelors. He was using his savings to pay his living expenses and realized that he would run out of money before he received his degree. So, he transferred to the for-profit University of Phoenix, which offered an accelerated online program. After talking to the Phoenix’s advisors, he estimated that he would need $20,000 to complete his bachelors degree, most of which would be covered by federal benefits. But his tuition began rising and the school began processing loans on his behalf. It was able to do this because, when he enrolled, Phoenix advisors pressured him into signing a promissory note, which they said was required for him to enroll. The loans seem to be small, but ultimately, added up to $30,000.

 

Mae McGarry, 36, Erie, PA, Army, served in Iraq

Returning to civilian life after a stint in Iraq, Mae wanted to pursue a degree in criminal justice and psychology. She looked for a program that would give her flexibility to take care of her family while going to school. The for-profit Columbia Southern University’s on-line program seemed to fit the bill. But after three years, she found herself $50,000 in debt, her GI Bill benefits gone, without a degree and with credits that did not transfer. Today, she is slowly paying off her debt and has been studying part-time at St. Leo University, a private, nonprofit college.

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