Last month, I wrote about ways to maximize your educations benefits after leaving the service. In the piece, I wrote about how it’s important to verify information furnished by schools that might be misleading—usually when it comes from certain schools that tend to overpromise the value and earning power of their degrees. Research and hard questions about a school’s operation can help minimize the predatory practices of some schools. Still, abuses happen. That’s why VA utilizes State Approving Agencies like the Texas Veterans Commission to ensure a school’s program of education is worthy of receiving GI Bill benefits. The Texas Veterans Commission recently disqualified one school from eligibility where such misuse took place. Therefore, VA cannot pay Veterans’ tuition and fees under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to this school until approval is restored.
Three separate campuses of Westwood College in Texas (Houston South, Dallas and Ft. Worth) were disqualified by VA under rules meant to protect students from schools that purposely deceive their students. For-profit, online schools serve a valuable role for some students and we certainly don’t want to see reductions in education options for any Veteran. But at the same time, VA has a responsibility to ensure benefits used by Vets help them reach their goals after serving. These crucial tuition payments, in turn, should not go to institutions that put profits ahead of quality education.
In situations like these, schools are given an opportunity to resolve their issues before drastic action is taken. When all other avenues are exhausted, the SAA and VA don’t hesitate to step in to protect Veterans and their family members. In December of last year, this is exactly what happened with Westwood College’s campuses in Texas.
So what happens next? Last fall was the last semester students were eligible to use VA benefits at those campuses. The Texas Veterans Commission will work with Westwood to resolve their outstanding issues. Only then can Westwood be recertified to accept VA tuition payments. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments.
If you’re an affected student at one of these schools, there are options to continue using your education benefits elsewhere. For an official list of Texas schools, go here and click on Texas. You can also look at these unofficial lists of Texas colleges broken down by the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex and Houston. Just be sure whatever school interests you is approved for VA benefits.
It’s both unfortunate and shameful to see an institution of higher learning behave so inappropriately toward those who’ve served the country. Hopefully this conduct by Westwood College will be the last instance of a school engaging in similar deceptive tactics driven by profit motives. And if not, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye out for Veterans and their families.
4/12/2011 3:24PM EST: This post was revised to clarify the relationship between VA and state approving agencies.