VA Launches Comparison Tool, Complaint System
February 6, 2014
As part of the implementation of Executive Order 13607—which established Principles of Excellence for educational institutions serving servicemembers, veterans, and their families—the Department of Veterans Affairs recently launched two online tools. Developed in partnership with several federal agencies, one tool helps veterans decide which school to attend while the other provides a route for expressing dissatisfaction about their educational experience.
The GI Bill Comparison Tool is intended to help veterans choose a school. It bears a striking resemblance to the Department of Education's Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, providing much of the same information about a selected institution's graduation rates, default rates, and median borrowing.
Two new blocks of information provide the following:
- VA Benefit Estimator: This block provides the name of the institution selected; its location; and whether it is a public, nonprofit, or for-profit school. Then, based on the months of qualifying active duty service the user selected, maximum benefit amounts are calculated. It is important to note that this information does not take into account the actual tuition and fee charges of the institution selected. For public institutions, it always reads "xx% of instate tuition." For private institutions, it lists either the current statutory maximum of $19,198 per year for students with 100 percent eligibility or calculates the appropriate percentage of that amount for those with lower eligibility, followed by "up to" in parentheses. The housing allowance is based on the school's location.
- Veteran Indicators: This block provides yes or no answers to whether the institution has signed on to the Principles of Excellence and whether it participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. It does not provide any details of the institution's Yellow Ribbon commitment. Lastly, this box shows the number of veterans attending the school.
At the bottom of the page, a link for "more information about your school" takes the user to the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator website.
The GI Bill Comparison Tool is labeled a beta site and provides an email address for making comments and suggestions for improvement. NACUBO intends to submit suggestions and welcomes input from members.
As directed in Executive Order 13607, VA and the Departments of Defense, Education, and Justice, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, have worked together to develop online complaint systems to collect feedback from servicemembers, veterans, and their family members who are using federal benefits to pay for their educations and are dissatisfied with some aspect of their experience. The VA GI Bill Feedback System and the DoD Postsecondary Education Complaint System are each hosted on the respective agencies' websites. (Individuals are directed to make complaints about federal financial aid to ED or about private student loans to CFPB.)
Dissatisfied students or former students are invited to register complaints about a variety of issues "if your school is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence." The VA and DoD processes vary slightly, but both agencies will review complaints and share them with the institution named, which will be expected to respond. The agency will then follow up with the complainant. The agencies will review and investigate as appropriate for enforcement purposes. Complaints, including anonymous ones not shared with the institution, will also be submitted for the record to the FTC's Consumer Sentinel Network.
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