A long-running attack on education choice for America’s veterans intensified this month when Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) introduced a bill that will change the way veterans can use GI Bill tuition assistance when seeking a college degree. Observers should consider this the “No Class” legislation, both for its treatment of America’s veterans as well as its intended result for educational opportunity.

If Shalala’s bill succeeds, then thousands of veterans every year who choose to attend for-profit, career-oriented colleges will lose this opportunity.  Unlike public or state-run colleges supported by taxpayer dollars, for-profit colleges are burdened by the requirement that at least 10 percent of their revenue not come from federal aid. Currently the GI Bill does not count as federal student aid, but changing this rule will result in plunging revenue for hundreds of universities putting many of their survival in question.

CASE has pointed out time and again these Democrat sponsored attacks on for-profit universities have nothing to do with protecting students, but are the product of a political agenda to help Democrats maintain control of the education establishment.

Every year thousands of veterans are receiving a great education, more career opportunities and higher incomes because of their choice to attend a for-profit college that offers the training, schedule and curriculum that suits their needs. Shalala’s bill is an outrage that robs veterans of the opportunities they have earned through their sacrifice to our nation.

In pushing these so-called “reforms,” Shalala and her Democrat colleagues falsely claim they are protecting students from poor educational outcomes, yet they never apply these same standards to the many more publicly supported colleges that have abysmal graduation and retention rates, nor will they address the more than $1 trillion in student loan debt currently held by Americans, largely racked up at public universities with skyrocketing tuition rates. Here is where Shalala and the Democrats are dead wrong in their claims:

  1. The vast majority of the for-profit schools Democrats aim to shutter are highly successful. For profit schools such as ECPI, University of Phoenix, Full Sail University and Grand Canyon University are innovators in online education and provide flexible classes and learning methods for adult and other non-traditional students. They are also leaders in job placement and the offering of degree credit for job experience. Monroe College in the Bronx places 100 percent of its graduates in nursing jobs, almost all of them minority women. These highly successful schools should be congratulated for what they are offering students and their contribution to building a skilled work force, not attacked for closure.
  2. Shalala’s bill lumps veterans in with regular students. It’s absolutely preposterous to treat federal aid available to any student attending college to a Veteran’s vested stake in the GI Bill of rights, which was earned through sacrifice of the highest order to our nation. These rights belong to the veterans who earned them. America made a promise to our men and women in uniform 60 years ago, politicians need to keep their hands off the GI Bill and not treat this like just another entitlement program.
  3. Education is changing in America. The traditional 4-year college experience is giving way to new methods of learning, thanks to technology and online opportunities that are innovating the very way Americans earn their degree and seek new career opportunities. For-profit colleges are leaders in this innovation, and provide valuable competition in the education marketplace that is forcing slow-to-change public colleges to catch up. This market competition benefits all students, but empowering bureaucrats and politicians to favor public schools eliminates much of the dynamism behind modern innovations in higher education.
  4. Democrats have a double standard on education reform. Nobody argues that higher education needs reforms, especially as our economy continues to rapidly evolve, our workforce requires new skills, and tuition costs and student debt weigh like a boot on the backs of students. Yet in all of their talk of reform, Democrats remain fixated on for-profit colleges only, pointing to a handful of negative situations while entirely ignoring numerous abuses and scandals in the public college sector. Public universities with atrocious graduation and retention rates – who have also been raising the cost of education far beyond the rate of inflation – never seem to catch their interest. This hypocrisy exposes the Democrats’ ambitions for what they are, an ideological agenda, not an honest attempt to apply the same standards across the board and help fix the many ongoing problems in higher ed.

It is more than clear that the Shalala’s “no class” legislation should be defeated. Education reform is a priority, but reforms must be fair, equitable, and apply across the board. It’s time to end the ideological agendas attempting to rig the system against for-profit colleges and America’s veterans.