In a legal win for Veterans, VA is taking control of the formerly privately-owned website GIBill.com. This means Veterans will be better protected against deceptive marketing practices launched by businesses eager to cash in on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
At VA, our job is to support Veterans wherever they choose to attend school, but we also have an obligation to ensure Vets are adequately and accurately informed about their education options. That’s why, in February 2011, we drew attention to misinformation that Veterans faced while searching for resources on VA’s education benefits. In doing so, we pushed back on marketing companies responsible for deploying official-looking websites designed to funnel troops and Veterans to certain for-profit schools. In such cases, Veterans have been led to believe that for-profit schools are their only option for using the GI Bill—which isn’t true.
This questionable practice has caught the eye of Congress, the media, and, most recently, 20 state attorneys general who launched an investigation into QuinStreet, the marketing company that runs GIBill.com and other sites like it. GIBill.com is perhaps the most visible for-profit lead generator that specifically targets active duty troops and Veterans.
This week, the Kentucky Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with QuinStreet, which includes an agreement to turn over the GIBill.com domain to VA, as well as to shut down its related social media sites on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to a payment of $2.5 million to the states involved in the settlement. According to a statement from the Kentucky Attorney General, the move to relinquish the domain and hand it over to VA was an “unprecedented achievement and one which significantly raises the bar for similar settlements going forward.”
Through GIBill.com, QuinStreet diverted student Veterans to their for-profit school clients—schools that are also under scrutiny for allegedly taking generous GI Bill tuition payouts in exchange for degrees of questionable value amid higher dropout rates—especially when compared to non-profit private and public universities.
President Obama’s executive order earlier this year put schools accepting GI Bill dollars on notice that they would be held accountable for deceptive recruitment tactics. As noted by Holly Petraeus of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, military and Veteran education benefits “should not be wasted on programs that do not promote—and may even frustrate—their educational goals.”
While deceptive marketers still exist, this is a welcome step in the direction of further protecting Veterans. So what can you do to protect yourself? Knowing which school is right for you is a good place to start. Check out our guide on how to best select the program that fits your education and employment goals.
To stay on top of news, announcements, or changes that impact Veterans education benefits, bookmark our GI Bill page, and follow our GI Bill Facebook page to get updates right in your timeline. It’s also a good idea to only trust VA benefits information from government websites.
Thanks to efforts from the White House and across state and federal agencies, the business of taking advantage of Veterans is coming to an end. As always, we’ll be watching these issues closely to ensure student Vets are provided with the best information to make the most informed education choices possible.