By: Richard Cordray, head of the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid
Ten years ago this week, President Barack Obama issued an executive order establishing guiding principles to protect veterans, service members, and their families pursuing higher education. These are officially known as the Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Military Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members. To enforce these principles, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) works with the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to ensure that colleges and vocational schools provide quality educational opportunities to service members. connected students.
The Principles of Excellence have helped millions of students by providing information on the financial cost and quality of schools, combating abusive and deceptive recruitment practices, and ensuring schools provide academic and student support High quality. We and our partners have created an interagency task force to share information and focus on these critical issues facing military-related students. Our collaboration produced these results:
- created The ED’s Online Customer Complaint System, the VA’s GI Bill® Academic Feedback Tool, and the DoD’s Post-Secondary Education Complaint System, all modeled after the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint System. These systems allow ED and our partners to act on direct military-related student feedback and better oversee, enforce, and monitor school conduct and performance;
- built and improved ED College Funding Plan (formerly known as Financial Aid Shopping Sheet). Participating schools use this tool to provide veterans, service members, and their families with a standard set of personalized information about their financial aid offerings so they know which colleges are the most affordable;
- launched and regularly enriched easy-to-use tools, such as ED’s College Scorecard, to help veterans, service members, and their families make informed decisions about where to attend college and what programs to study;
- developed and published joint measures of student outcomes on the ED’s College Navigator and the VA’s and DoD’s consumer tools. These metrics capture important insights into military-related student experiences with higher education, enabling our partners to make improvements and improve monitoring, compliance, and enforcement at participating schools; and
- share information with our partners on complaints and other allegations that some schools use deceptive and misleading practices to recruit military-related students. We collaborated to spread the message of our recent FSA Enforcement Office bulletin warning schools that we will hold them accountable if they engage in such practices.
The task force and our interagency agreement are still as relevant today as they were ten years ago. For example, we’re working with Congress and our partners to close the persistent “90/10 loophole” that for-profit schools have exploited to sue veterans and service members to maintain access to federal aid for students.
We also assist the AV in the implementation of the Isakson and Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Enhancement Act, 2020 and the Law from a distance. Both of these acts reinforce the principles of excellence by requiring schools to be approved to participate in federal student aid programs. before they can offer GI Bill benefits and requiring schools to use the ED’s college funding plan.
And through our partnership, ED, DoD, VA, and CFPB continue to share information about enforcement actions that could lead to a school losing eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs or other consequences.
Beyond our shared record of accomplishments and ongoing initiatives, our work is not done.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Principles of Excellence, the task force seeks to improve the outcome measures available to military-related students. We analyze students’ experiences to determine the steps to take to ensure they stay enrolled and ultimately succeed in completing their degree programs. We also focus on how we can better understand the later experiences of military-related student loan borrowers after they graduate. For example, we are working with our partners to ensure that more borrowers can obtain civil service loan forgiveness and the benefits of income-driven repayment plans as simply and easily as possible.
ED is grateful that our partners remain committed to the Principles of Excellence, which are essential to protect students and taxpayers. We also look forward to our future collaboration, which not only serves military-related students, but also benefits all schools, as these students bring their unique background and experience to enrich our higher education system.