Does President Trump’s Next VA Secretary Oppose the House GOP Higher Education Proposal?

WASHINGTON – In response to Questions for the Record submitted by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Dr. Robert Wilkie, President Trump’s nominee to be the next Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), expressed strong support for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which encourages talented professionals to enter public service. The program is eliminated in House Republican higher education bill, the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508).

The VA Secretary nominee also recognized that the GI Bill loophole in the “90/10 rule” improperly incentivizes for-profit schools to aggressively recruit veterans. Rather than closing the loophole, the House Republican PROSPER Act eliminates the 90/10 rule and strips away important safeguards that protect veterans and taxpayers from predatory schools.

These comments directly contradict the key provisions in the House GOP’s higher education proposal and raise further questions about its consequences for America’s veterans. On December 13, a few minutes after midnight, Committee Republicans advanced the PROSPER Act on a party-line vote.

Senator Murray: “The Department of Defense has called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program a ‘powerful incentive for public service-minded people to pursue a career in the Armed Forces of the United States.’ Do you agree that the PSLF program is an important tool for VA to recruit qualified individuals to serve our nation’s veterans?”

Dr. Wilkie: “I agree that PSLF is a powerful incentive for public service and has been a great recruiting program for the DoD. If confirmed, I look forward to reviewing programs such as the PSLF to see if it makes sense at the VA.”

Senator Murray: “Many outside experts and veterans service organizations have indicated that they believe the ‘90/10 loophole’ results in the improper targeting of veterans by predatory colleges and training programs. Do you believe it is reasonable to close the ‘90/10 loophole’ for for-profit colleges, and to count veteran and military benefits as part of the 90 percent cap on federal funding? If not, please explain why you do not think this is reasonable.”

Dr. Wilkie: “The ‘90/10 rule’ is a restriction on Federal Student Aid funding and is administered exclusively by the Department of Education. While VA defers to the Department of Education (ED) on the 90/10 calculation, there is an argument for including the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the 90 percent cap. Under the present structure, some institutions may be marketing to Veterans because the Federal education benefits they receive are treated the same way as private funds in the 90/10 calculation. I believe institutions should not aggressively recruit Veterans principally because of financial motives.”

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