President Barack Obama moved Friday to shield American troops from unscrupulous for-profit colleges that he said bilk soldiers out of their educational benefits and dupe them into taking out expensive loans.
Speaking to cheering soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Obama promised "an America that will forever fight for you, just as you fought for us" as he signed an executive order to protect troops from unethical recruiters.
"One of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who had the nerve to visit a barracks at Camp Lejeune and enroll Marines with brain injuries," the president said. "Just for the money. These Marines had injuries so severe some of them couldn't recall what the recruiter had signed them up for."
"That's appalling. That's disgraceful. It should never happen in America," he told members of the storied 3rd Infantry Division. "They're trying to swindle and hoodwink you. And today, here at Fort Stewart, we're going to put an end to it." Obama said his executive order would force institutions that aim to recruit members of the military to disclose more information about the actual costs of completing their programs, available financial aid, and the prospects for graduating. It also looks to restrict access to military bases, while making it easier for troops to file complaints. And the order calls for the Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark the phrase "GI Bill" to make it harder for institutions to engage in deceptive advertising, since some for-profit schools abuse this term.
The president, speaking on the largest American military base east of the Mississippi River, noted he was not lumping all for-profit schools together, but targeting "bad actors" who prey on members of the military.
Still, his actions drew an unhappy response from former Rep. Steve Gunderson, the president and chief executive officer of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Gunderson said in a statement that he was "disappointed" that Obama had "decided to bypass the Congress" amid efforts to work out a compromise approach to address abuses.
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