Veterans Advocacy Group Puts Corinthian Colleges On Blacklist

This past week, a group called Student Veterans of America announced a list of for-profit colleges that they claim are recruiting vets while simultaneously closing and selling off campuses. NPR's Eric Westervelt speaks with SVA president D. Wayne Robinson.

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ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Eric Westervelt.

This past week, a group called the Student Veterans of America published essentially, a blacklist of for-profit schools veterans should avoid. All of the schools are run by one group - Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian is in the process of closing some schools and selling others, following a federal investigation into their business practices. Allegations include overhyping their ability to place graduates in jobs and altering grades and enrollment numbers. Wayne Robinson, a former command sergeant major in the army, is now CEO of the Student Veterans of America. He says, Corinthian's actions raise larger questions about some for-profit colleges.

WAYNE ROBINSON: We were actually working in conjunction with the VA to provide a few answers to the questions that we were receiving from members in our chapters, such as, what happens to my education benefits that I've expended? Will I be able to graduate? Et cetera. So lots of questions, and so while we were in the midst of doing this, we were contacted saying that these same colleges were recruiting on active duty military bases in California.

WESTERVELT: So Corinthian Colleges, they were continuing to recruit on military bases while they're going out of business? Is that correct?

ROBINSON: That is correct.

WESTERVELT: Beyond Corinthian, Wayne, Student Veterans of America and other organizations, you guys have sounded the alarm and charged that some for-profit colleges are aggressively targeting veterans and really, failing to deliver on their promises. What's going on here?

ROBINSON: I'll carefully state that we're not against a particular sector, whether it be for-profit, public, or private. So we support student veterans in all of their choices. But, we want to ensure that student vets are informed consumers of their benefits. And I can say that there are a number of for-profits that we've reached out to when we had issues. We were able to sit down together. They listened, and obviously they're not on this list. So it's not all of the sector, but when we find those bad actors out there utilizing terrible business practices, we want to bring that to light.

WESTERVELT: Sounds like predatory practices among some for-profit colleges. Correct, Wayne?

ROBINSON: Yes, it does sound that way. And actually, we're pretty sure that does happen. We're just not in the position right now with enough evidence to be able to say all, or, this entire group, or this entire sector.

WESTERVELT: So veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan face a lot of challenges. What, Wayne, is your main advice to veterans who are looking, you know, to update their skills after serving and that want to take advantage of the GI Bill? Should they steer away from for-profit colleges, full stop?

ROBINSON: I'd say, no. I'd say no, and the reason is when you look at - Eric, one of the big issues that we have is certifications. Because let's say you'd like to go work for one of the top car companies, right? And you wanted to be a mechanic. Well, a number these institutions are partnered with for-profit colleges that have the one-year mechanic training, and they're certified and there's good job placement there. So I could not blanketly, uniformly say all for-profits should be steered away. I couldn't make that statement accurately.

WESTERVELT: So with the certification issue, they should continue to look at some of these but be careful, given the problems at Corinthian Colleges and other for-profits?

ROBINSON: Very good. Yep.

WESTERVELT: Wayne Robinson is the president and CEO of Student Veterans of America. This past week they issued a warning to veterans about enrolling with a number of for-profit colleges. Command Sergeant Major Robinson, thanks for coming in.

ROBINSON: Thank you, Eric.

WESTERVELT: NPR left messages for Corinthian Colleges for a comment but they did not respond.

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