NAICU Washington Update

Congress Seeks More Oversight of Colleges that Accept GI Bill Benefits

November 21, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives, in celebration of Veterans’ Day, recently passed a series of bills under fast-track rules that included the Protect the GI bill Act. With $16 billion in GI Bill educational benefits going to veteran students each year, Congress is looking to provide more oversight of colleges that accept GI Bill benefits to ensure the dollars are being spent appropriately, and veteran students are getting a good education.
Two major provisions in the bill are the inclusion in statute of the Principles of Excellence created by Executive Order in 2012 under the Obama Administration and Heightened Cash Monitoring as a trigger for an institutional risk-based review by the state approving agency.
Provisions related to the Principles of Excellence are reflected in the requirements for institutions receiving GI Bill benefits to do the following:
  • Provide veterans with a form with individual personalized information regarding:
    • Estimated cost of the course, including tuition, fees, books, etc.
    • Estimated cost of living
    • The amount covered by the GI bill benefits
    • Other financial aid the veteran may be eligible for
    • Estimate of student loan debt
    • Graduation rates
    • Job placement rates
    • Additional requirements for completing the educational program (certification exams, for example)
    • Comparison of aid packages offered by different institutions 
Heightened cash monitoring is included in the expanded list of government actions that trigger a risk-based oversight survey of the institution by the state approval agency.  Additional oversight triggers include:
  • Being at risk of losing accreditation
  • Loss of accreditation
  • Punitive action by the Attorney General or Federal Trade Commission related to misconduct or misleading marketing practices
  • Punitive action by the state
  • Provisional status by the Secretary of Education
Currently, there are 483 institutions on heightened cash monitoring nationwide.  The reasons these colleges and universities are on heightened cash monitoring range from missing a paperwork submission to the Department of Education to having more substantial financial issues. The link to heightened cash monitoring as a trigger for increased oversight for veterans programs could be problematic for many institutions that are not at financial risk.
The bill would also expand requirements for institutions to submit verification of each individual enrolled and using GI benefits per month, and expand the reasons for disapproval of a course of education to include being at risk of losing accreditation, or having lost accreditation.
A companion bill has not been introduced in the Senate, but legislation related to Veterans can often move quickly through the legislative process on a bipartisan basis.