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I Served My County in Iraq But Drowning Under Student Loan Debt

By on June 18, 2018

Question:

Dear Steve,

I am a disabled veteran (reason for discharge) that served in Iraq 2004. After returning home in an effort to deal with my post war struggles, I decided to go back to school to get my MBA in the hopes to improve my personal economics.

I enrolled in the MBA online program with University of Phoenix (UOP). The long story short, I believe UOP targeted veterans to enroll in what I’ve learned, expensive programs compared to other institutions of higher learning. According to some Human Resources department staff and friends in HR, the MBA degree I earned from UOP doesn’t hold water and most employers don’t even recognize UOP as a credible university. It’s so bad that I have even been advised by some hiring managers and recruiters that “I would be better off taking it off my resume”.

I’m seeking relief from this debt based on my 21 years time in service to my country and the lack luster reputation the UOP as a credible institution of education by most companies.

Bobb

Answer:

Dear Bobb,

You could be quite right that UOP targetted veterans. Certainly, other schools have done it quite outlandishly.

The awareness that for-profit schools were targetting military members for enrollment is not an unknown problem. But despite the best efforts to rein in this abuse of military members the current Trump Department of Education under Secretary Betsy Devos continues to erode protections for you and others.

Here is what Senator Harkin said back in 2011. “I am deeply concerned, as all my colleagues should be, that Congress may have unintentionally created an opening for the current generation of veterans and active-duty service members to be victimized by these abuses because of their eligibility for federal benefits…Military money helps the schools – on paper – to meet a key statutory requirement that no more than 90 percent of their revenue come from Federal financial aid programs. Schools that exceed this 90 percent mark can face penalties. But, because of a technicality in the law, military benefits are not counted toward this 90 percent limit.

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“With their eyes on their 90/10 ratio, for-profit schools have moved aggressively to exploit the business opportunity. They have created marketing plans and a sales force specifically designed to target and enroll as many veterans, service members and family members as possible. The industry’s lobbyists are fond of saying that “students vote with their feet.” But the truth is that the schools spend billions on sophisticated marketing campaigns and large sales teams to get students in the door.

“This situation is unacceptable. All too often, students at for-profit schools encounter a high-cost, low-value education, a lack of appropriate support services, and executives whose day-to-day priority is squeezing every available dollar from students and taxpayers. It is all the more alarming that active-duty military personnel and veterans, using their hard earned benefits, are often victims of these for-profit schools,” Harkin said.

Your concerns are echoed by others. For example, “Another student, this one at the University of Phoenix, sent this letter to the Arizona attorney general after trying to resolve his complaint with the school: “I have been a police officer for over twenty years, I am also an Iraq war Veteran. I believe that the University of Phoenix is using deceptive practices in order to lure students into the school. The enrollment counselors tell students that they should be complete with their course of study in a short period of time fully knowing exactly how long it is going to take. The enrollment counselors eventually tell the students that it is going to take a lot longer to finish their program but not until the student has committed all of his financial aid and invested so much money that it would be senseless to leave and waste his invested time and money.” – Source

During the previous Obama administration, federal student loan debtors who had been the target of unfair and deceptive practices by for-profit schools had an opportunity under the Borrower Defense to Repayment program to have their federal loans fully forgiven without penalty. The current Department of Education has gutted that program and made it a mockery of what it was intended to be.

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I invite you and anyone interested in this topic to read the public testimony which is a part of the Congressional record.

You didn’t mention if your student loans were federal or private loans. If you are permanently disabled and there are federal loans you can apply for a disability discharge.

If these are private student loans the options are a bit more limited but you have some.

My personal opinion is it is disgraceful how we treat our veterans on so many levels. From this issue with student loan abuse to housing and medical issues, there is no shortage of concerns to be embarrassed about.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

One Comment

  1. Bobb

    June 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Asked question about the University of Phoenix student loans.

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