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Ohio Veterans Seek Out GI Bill

More Ohio veterans are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and many are seeking out higher education through the improved GI bill. A lot of that education money is going to expensive for-profit colleges, leaving many veterans with debt and no degree. “VA has money for college, if you are a veteran enrolled in college under the post-9/11 GI bill…..â€? It’s an attractive offer and the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to educate veterans on how they can use the GI bill to finance their college education. Since Congress improved the benefits, veterans have flooded into schools, many of them for-profit. It’s a more than 6 billion dollar industry. The Department of Veterans Affairs in Chicago lists veterans or their dependents in Ohio attend 83 public institutions, 127 for profit institutions and 83 private not for profit schools. In all more than 20,000 are using education benefits. During the past 2 years, more than one-third of all GI bill funds went to for profit schools that train only 25% of veterans. Ohio Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman, Mike McKinney says he has heard the reports of veterans getting buried in school loan debt when they run out of GI bill money. “We don’t have any instances here that have been reported to us about veterans in Ohio that have complaints about for profit schools. And it’s not to say that there aren’t any it’s just that we’re not aware of any specific instances here," says McKinney. McKinney says the improved GI Bill provides more benefits so veterans can attend vocational schools as well as public and private universities. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also estimates the cost to taxpayers to send a veteran to a for-profit school is more than double the cost of a public university...nearly $11,000 versus $5,000. “I certainly can’t sit here and say that a for-profit school is not the way someone should go. I mean a certain technical degree within a certain amount of time, if that’s what a veteran is looking for, it may be something to their advantage," says McKinney. 23 year old Staff Sergeant Chris Tadajanac is a reservist with the Ohio Air National Guard who attends a for-profit school. He takes online courses at Devry University for a Bachelor’s degree in network management. Tadajanac says the courses fit into his schedule since he works full time at the Ohio Air National Guard base in Mansfield. “The degree I’m working for is basically what my job is like with the military," says Tadajanac. Tadajanac admits that he has taken out a $5,000 loan for courses at Devry. And he doesn’t know how much more out of pocket money he’ll have to pay. Some of his GI bill benefits went to Ohio State where he took some courses in nursing. He left after getting a full time job and not having time to attend daytime classes. “I don’t really have any complaints about Devry. They’ve been easy to work with me. Like I can understand it might be trouble for some people, but that happens I think across the board with just about any college," says Tadajanac. Devry University would not answer questions on how many post 9/11 veterans are attending the school. A university spokeswoman returned an email declining an interview, saying the staff is too busy. Other schools like the University of Phoenix, Kaplan College, and the Everest Institute did not return phone calls for an interview. President of Vet Jobs, Ted Daywalt also a veteran, says not all for- profit schools are bad, but complaints by veterans on the GI bill are overwhelmingly about them. “They just sign up and the VA starts sending out the money, and there has been absolutely no oversight by the Veterans Administration," says Daywwalt. Daywalt adds many schools created their own accrediting association to give the appearance that their curriculum stacks up to other universities. He suggests calling non-profit schools and asking if they accept curriculum credit from a for- profit school before signing up for classes. Columbus resident and former Navy Petty Officer, 2nd Class, Todd Burgei took on-line classes in 2004, with the University of Phoenix, for a Bachelors in Business Administration, before the new GI bill. He took out a federal loan for about $6,000. “They’re charging astronomical rates which I thought 10, 15 years ago that they were charging astronomical rates, I can imagine what it is now," says Burgei. Burgei did not finish his degree and has struggled to find a full-time steady job. In October he did find employment and hopes that it becomes permanent. He still is paying off his loan.