Our guest blogger is Lauren Jenkins, a Non-Profit Programs Consultant with ScoutComms where she works on defense and veterans issues.
An Iraq War veteran searching the web for “GI Bill schools” won’t find the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website about Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits among the top results. Instead, he or she will see GIBill.com, a slick commercial site advertising the select schools willing to pay to get their names featured — mostly for-profit schools with low graduation and high loan default rates.
Predatory recruiting practices by for-profit schools have been the target of state attorneys general investigations and lawsuits, advocacy campaigns, Congressional hearings, and an Executive Order signed by President Obama.
Now QuinStreet, the company behind GIBill.com, has come under investigation by 15 state attorneys general — led by Jack Conway from Kentucky — for its role in connecting veterans and servicemembers to its for-profit school clients. As California Watch’s Erica Perez reported today:
In their inquiry, the investigators expressed concerns that QuinStreet’s marketing websites, such as www.GIBill.com and www.ArmyStudyGuide.com, mislead consumers into believing that the sites are affiliated with the government or that the for-profit colleges recommended by the sites are the only ones that accept subsidies such as the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance, which is for service members on active duty.
Currently GIBill.com features multiple disclaimers that it is not affiliated with the government or military, Perez notes, but “an archived version of the website from July 2011 does not include the disclaimer.”
To prevent further abuse by companies like QuinStreet, Obama’s new Executive Order directs relevant agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs to “take all appropriate steps to ensure that websites and programs are not deceptively and fraudulently marketing educational services and benefits.”