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Durbin: Illinois Agency Should Take Action Against Westwood College

  • Written by Press Release
  • Category: Schools

Calls on approving agency to make criminal justice program - under investigation by Illinois AG - ineligible for federal GI Bill funds

WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—February 29, 2012.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Illinois State Approving Agency to make the criminal justice program offered by Westwood College – currently under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General – ineligible for federal funding under the GI Bill. According to Durbin, veterans in Illinois rely on the State Approving Agency for assurance of the integrity of the school they attend. 

“Providing veterans with education benefits makes sense when we can ensure that veterans are receiving a quality education, but we cannot afford to spend limited federal dollars for poor quality programs at schools that overpromise and underperform,” wrote Durbin. “The Illinois State Approving Agency is well positioned to provide assurance to taxpayers and students in Illinois that GI bill benefits are only going to institutions of quality and rigor that are likely to produce good outcomes for veterans.” 

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently filed a lawsuit against Westwood College alleging that Westwood deceptively marketed its criminal justice program by falsely convincing students the program would allow them to pursue a law enforcement career but instead left Chicago area students with up to $70,000 each in debt for degrees that were worthless in pursuing careers in criminal justice.

“Although the Attorney General’s lawsuit is not yet settled, the seriousness of the allegations merit immediate action to protect prospective students from the same fate that has befallen too many Westwood students already,” Durbin continued. “Many students learned only after graduation—and after accumulating thousands in student loan debt—that their degrees would not land them the law enforcement jobs they originally sought.”

Earlier this year, Durbin announced legislation that would further limit federal government subsidies to for-profit colleges and eliminate the incentive for these extremely profitable schools to aggressively target veterans and service members. The Protecting Our Students and Taxpayers (POST) Act – cosponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP), U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) – would cap the amount of revenue that for-profit colleges and universities are allowed to derive from federal student aid programs at 85% (currently that limit is at 90% with only 10% required to come from sources outside the federal government). Durbin’s bill would also include veterans’ and active duty service members’ federal student aid – such as G.I. bill benefits and the Department of Defense’s tuition assistance funds – in the calculation (currently, this funding is not included in the 90% calculation).

[Text of the letter is below]

February 28, 2012

Ms. Joan L. Ryan, Administrator

Illinois State Approving Agency

833 S. Spring Street

P.O. Box 19432

Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Ms. Ryan:

I urge you to use the authority of the state approving agency to make the criminal justice program offered by Westwood College ineligible for new enrollments using the GI bill. As the agency tasked with approving schools and education programs to participate in the GI bill program, veterans rely on state approving agencies for assurance of the integrity of the school they attend.

The State Attorney General recently filed lawsuit against Westwood College for engaging in deceptive practices that left Chicago area students with up to $70,000 each in debt for degrees that failed to qualify them for careers in criminal justice. The lawsuit alleges that Westwood marketed its criminal justice program by falsely convincing students the program would allow them to pursue a law enforcement career with agencies such as the Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police and suburban police departments. Those employers don’t recognize the criminal justice degree from Westwood because Westwood lacks regional accreditation. Many students learned only after graduation—and after accumulating thousands in student loan debt—that their degrees would not land them the law enforcement jobs they originally sought.

Although the Attorney General’s lawsuit is not yet settled, the seriousness of the allegations merit immediate action to protect prospective students from the same fate that has befallen too many Westwood students already.

Providing veterans with education benefits makes sense when we can ensure that veterans are receiving a quality education, but we cannot afford to spend limited federal dollars for poor quality programs at schools that overpromise and underperform. The Illinois state approving agency is well positioned to provide assurance to taxpayers and students in Illinois that GI bill benefits are only going to institutions of quality and rigor that are likely to produce good outcomes for veterans.

I look forward to working with you to guarantee a high-quality education for all our veterans.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin, U.S. Senator

Source: www.durbin.senate.gov

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