Student vets group shuts down sham chapters at for-profit colleges

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 5, 2012

WASHINGTON — Student Veterans of America has shut down chapters at 40 for-profit colleges after discovering that many of the groups were memberless fronts used to promote the schools as “veteran friendly.”

Michael Dakduk, executive director of SVA, said the action came after a routine review of organization procedures uncovered a pattern of problems with the for-profit chapters.

Numerous chapters were founded with a faculty member as the main point of contact, he said, instead of a student veteran. Those chapters were found to have no actual student members, and the SVA brand was being used by the schools’ marketing departments in recruiting efforts.

“SVA will not allow institutions of higher learning, whether for-profit or not, to use the name Student Veterans of America for the sole benefit of the institution,” he said.

The news comes just weeks after lawmakers again took aim at the for-profit industry’s aggressive recruiting of student veterans and their GI Bill education benefits, offering new legislation limiting how much of the federal funding they could accept.

Critics have accused the industry of exhausting veterans’ education benefits without offering credible degrees or learning support services. Industry representatives have disputed those charges, saying that the for-profit model of online classes and flexible learning schedules offers a critical alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar colleges.

Dakduk said his group is not releasing the names of the 40 institutions believed to be operating chapter scams until after a full review of their records can be completed. But, he added, the group does plan to publicly out institutions found to be exploiting SVA’s reputation.

He added that student veterans who believe they are being exploited or misrepresented by their school – regardless of the type of institution – should contact national SVA officials at www.studentveterans.org.

In a statement, Steve Gunderson, President of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said officials there were unaware of any problems with  members' SVA chapters before Thursday's announcement.

"Obviously, we take our commitments to and our service for veterans very seriously," he said. "Once we learn of the specific schools, we will reach out to them to determine if there are misunderstandings or problems that can be resolved.

"We look forward to working with SVA and others to ensure that the chapters on all school campuses are meeting the expected standards."

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