In a letter to US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence urged the federal government to repay veterans who used military benefits to attend ITT Tech, the for-profit college that abruptly closed in early September, Politico reported.
Pence called for a full refund of all GI Bill money used at the institution.
“On behalf of all Hoosier veterans, Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb, Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs Director Jim Brown, and I are calling on the VA to fully reimburse student veterans who used the GI Bill to enroll at ITT Technical Institute during 2016 so they may have the opportunity to pursue their education at another institution,” Pence wrote.
The GI Bill provides educational benefits for US servicemembers to pay for tuition and fees, as well as a monthly stipend for housing and other educational resources like books and classroom supplies. The post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect in 2009 and provided up to $21,084.89 in educational benefits to veterans for private or foreign school.
While current students and those actively enrolled in past 120 days who made the decision to leave are eligible to have 100% of their federal loans discharged, students who spend their GI Bill benefits on attending a school that closes receive no such reimbursement. By forgoing their dischargements, both veterans and regular students can transfer to a participating school, but finding a quality institution that will accept the credits is quite the task.
Additionally, veterans who are dependent on GI Bill money to pay for basic monthly fees, like rent, are left in precarious situations. They must find a way to pay these bills or quickly enroll in other programs to continue receiving GI Bill benefits.
In his letter, Pence stressed that the “brave men and women” who served the country deserve the opportunity to pursue their education wherever they want despite recent closures, which are no fault of the students. “We cannot allow this to stand,” he wrote.
About 7,000 veterans had been using GI Bill money to attend ITT, according to Politico. Using that figure, Pence’s call for repayment of GI Bill money roughly equates to $148 million in reimbursement from the VA to veteran ITT Tech students. Neither ITT Tech nor the VA immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
In recent years, it’s become clear that ITT Tech, along with other for-profit colleges, derives much of its funding from GI Bill benefits.
In 2014, the US Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee issued a report disparaging the for-profit college sector and outlining just how much GI Bill money it receives.
The report showed that of the top 10 institutions receiving GI Bill dollars, eight were for-profit schools. ITT Tech ranked third on the list. The institutions marked in bold are for-profit colleges.
Apollo Group – $272 millionEDMC – $163 millionITT – $161 millionDeVry – $132 millionCareer Education – $79 millionCorinthian Colleges – $63 millionStrayer University – $56 millionUniversity of Maryland System (public university) – $50 millionUTI – $50 millionEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical (private nonprofit school) – $48 million
ITT’s closure, affecting about 40,000 students and 8,000 employees, is one of the largest in US history.
Pence’s push to protect veterans who attended ITT Tech is another signal that the Trump campaign is committed to working for US servicemen and women.
In July, Donald Trump pledged to fix the VA and said that “fixing this corruption will be one of my many and highest priorities, and believe me, it will happen. I’m very good at things like that.”