The executive order signed by President Barack Obama Friday on Fort Stewart has been endorsed by the top education official on the installation.
“I’m really excited about the executive order,” said Pamela King, installation education officer for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
“While we do want educational institutions to provide services to our soldiers and their families, we want good services for them. It’s not unusual for some of our soldiers to get $10,000 to $20,000 in debt to some of these institutions.”
According to the White House press office, the executive order helps stop deceptive and misleading practices by educational institutions that target active duty military, veterans and their families.
King was referring to the almost-predatory practices of online education institutions to get soldiers or family members to take out costly school loans.
In his own remarks before signing the executive order, Obama strongly condemned recruiters from one institution who came on base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and got Marines with traumatic brain injuries to enroll in courses or degree programs when they lacked the capacity to understand what they were signing.
“We’re honest brokers,” said King, referring to the Fort Stewart education center and its affiliated institutions. “We’re here to tell soldiers and their family members about honest education opportunities. If I could advise them of anything, I’d tell (soldiers and family members) to come to the education center and talk to an education counselor.”
Sgt. Johnnie Marshall, a soldier with the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division had the privilege of introducing the president and first lady.
In his introduction, Marshall related his own experience with an online predatory education institution.
“I didn’t feel like I was learning,” Marshall said. “Furthermore, I was not being challenged in class. I didn’t want to be given a grade. I wanted to earn it.”
After contacting the education center and talking with an education counselor, Marshall said he enrolled with Central Texas College. Now, he is learning and achieving his education goals.
A press release from the While House noted that members of Congress have already introduced legislation that would address predatory practices by education institutions, but the president said he believed something needed to be done now.
Obama said his executive order will help ensure military and veteran students have the information they need to make informed decisions about education options and crack down on improper online recruiting practices.
It will also strengthen the rules about who can come on post to recruit military personnel, establish a veterans’ complaint system for filing complaints against fraudulent institutions and improve education services for military and veterans, he said.
He told the crowd that 8 million Americans were educated under the old GI Bill, noting that our country believed educating its veterans following World War II was good for the whole country. Then referring to the “sea of incredible men and women” in front of him, Obama said there was still a need for educating our country’s veterans.