Know Before You Owe

The Obamas speak at Ft. StewartA two-fer, if ever there was one. According to the White House Press office, both the First Lady and the President spoke. However, despite Republican carping about the President using the official plane to campaign, this visit to northeast Georgia had an official purpose — to explain and sign legislation that reforms how veterans interact with college programs and, one hopes, avoid getting ripped off.

As an aside, just today it was reported that the student loan program, which has been so much in the news because Congress was proposing to double the interest rates being charged, has become a major factor for seniors over 60 as a result of people being lured into training programs to “prepare” them for new jobs that never materialize. So, they end up with their already meager Social Security pensions being dunned for the repayment of loans from which they got no benefits.

So, in addition to the usual plaudits to our troops, what the President said was as follows, in part:

We’ve made it easier for veterans to access all sorts of employment services. You just heard how Michelle and Jill have worked with businesses to secure tens of thousands of jobs for veterans and their families. And with support from Democrats and Republicans, we’ve put in place new tax credits for companies that hire veterans. We want every veteran who wants a job to get a job. That’s the goal. (Applause.)

And those of you who want to pursue a higher education and earn new skills, you deserve that opportunity as well.

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So as President, I’ve made sure to champion the Post-9/11 GI Bill. And with that bill — and the Tuition Assistance program — last year we supported more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 servicemembers who are pursuing a higher education. (Applause.) Because a higher education is the clearest path to the middle class. That’s progress. But we’ve got more to do. We can’t be satisfied with what we’ve already done, we’ve got more to do. We’ve got to make sure you’ve got every tool you need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking a school. And that’s why Michelle and I are here today.

Right now, it’s not that easy. I’ve heard the stories. Some of you guys can relate; you may have experienced it yourselves. You go online to try and find the best school for military members, or your spouses, or other family members. You end up on a website that looks official. They ask you for your email, they ask you for your phone number. They promise to link you up with a program that fits your goals. Almost immediately after you’ve typed in all that information, your phone starts ringing. Your inbox starts filling up. You’ve never been more popular in your life. All of these schools want you to enroll with them.

And it sounds good. Every school and every business should be out there competing for your skills and your talent and your leadership — everything that you’ve shown in uniform. But as some of your comrades have discovered, sometimes you’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you. They’re not interested in helping you find the best program. They are interested in getting the money. They don’t care about you; they care about the cash.

So they harass you into making a quick decision with all those calls and emails. And if they can’t get you online, they show up on post. One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries — just for the money. These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for. That’s appalling. That’s disgraceful. It should never happen in America.

I’m not talking about all schools. Many of them — for-profit and non-profit — provide quality education to our servicemembers and our veterans and their families. But there are some bad actors out there. They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your degree but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high interest student loan. They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits. But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t. They’ll say they’ve got a job placement program when, in fact, they don’t. It’s not right. They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you. And today, here at Fort Stewart, we’re going to put an end to it. (Applause.) We’re putting an end to it.

The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you. Here’s what we’re going to do.

First, we’re going to require colleges that want to enroll members of our military or veterans or your families to provide clear information about their qualifications and available financial aid. You’ll be able to get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe.” Know before you owe. (Applause.) And it will lay out all the information that you need to make your own choices about how best to pay for college.

Second, we’re going to require those schools to step up their support for our students. They need to provide a lot more counseling. If you’ve got to move because of a deployment or a reassignment, they’ve got to help you come up with a plan so that you can still get your degree. (Applause.)

Number three, we’re going to bring an end to the aggressive — and sometimes dishonest — recruiting that takes place. We’re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices. We’re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to servicemembers. (Applause.) And we’re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.

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Each of us is here because we had a country that was willing to invest in things like community colleges and universities, and scientific research and medicine, and caring for our veterans. Each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, had our backs.

This country exists because generations of Americans worked together and looked out for one other. Out of many, we are one. Those are the values we’ve got to return to. If we do, there’s nothing this country cannot achieve. There’s no challenge that’s too great for us. There’s no destiny beyond our reach. As long as we’re joined in common purpose and common resolve, better days will always lie ahead, and we will remind everybody why the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.

And as I look out at this sea of incredible men and women — (applause) — it gives me confidence that our best days are still ahead.

God bless you. God bless our armed services. God bless the Third Division. God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Executive Order is here

Personally, I think we would be well served if some of these speeches were available in audio format. While our veterans, presumably, are all literate, it is estimated that 35% of American adults are illiterate. Which means, at a minimum, that they don’t like to read and would prefer to get their information aurally. Fly-by-night folks have an advantage in that they can say anything, as long as their words are written on the wind.

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Photo: From CSpan

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."