Veterans groups and a key member of Congress, who have pressed for wider inquiries into for-profit schools, are defending the Defense Department’s decision to withhold new tuition assistance money from the University of Phoenix because of violations of military rules.
In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., referred to the findings of a Reveal investigation that found a number of violations, including using job-hunting workshops to boost enrollment and placing military insignias on special coins.
Because of the violations, the Pentagon informed the school on Oct. 7 that it would be barred from recruiting at military facilities and placed on probationary status in the military’s tuition assistance program, enrolling no new students.
Last week, a trio of other senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged the Pentagon to lift the restrictions, saying the violations were minor and did not merit the severity of the punishment.
“There is no question that the Department of Defense has a duty and a responsibility to take appropriate action against those who violate rules and regulations related to voluntary military education programs – and the suggestion otherwise is astonishing to me,” he said in his floor speech.
Yesterday, a letter signed by 33 organizations urged Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to do more to protect educational programs for military personnel and veterans.
“Failure to take swift and serious action against violations … harms service members, taxpayers, and the program itself, and sends the wrong message,” the letter said.
The groups called the Defense Department’s actions against the University of Phoenix prudent.
While the department’s website lists the school as being on probation, the groups urged the department to alert military personnel currently enrolled at the university not only about the military’s recent actions against the school but also about ongoing investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the California attorney general’s office.