HR 4748

Version: Introduced+in+House
Author: Rep. Cisneros, Gilbert Ray, Jr. [D-CA-39]

H. R. 4625 (Introduced-in-House)


116th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 4625


To amend title 38, United States Code, to require that educational institutions abide by certain principles as a condition of approval for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

October 8, 2019

Mr. Levin of California introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs


A BILL

To amend title 38, United States Code, to require that educational institutions abide by certain principles as a condition of approval for purposes of the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Protect the GI Bill Act”.

SEC. 2. Requirements for educational institutions participating in the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Section 3679 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(f) (1) Except as provided by paragraph (5), a State approving agency, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency, shall take an action described in paragraph (4)(A) if the State approving agency or the Secretary determines that an educational institution does not perform any of the following:

“(A) Prior to the enrollment of a covered individual in a course of education at the educational institution, provide the individual with a form that contains information personalized to the individual that describes—

“(i) the total cost of the course, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and any other additional costs;

“(ii) an estimate of the cost for living expenses for students enrolled in the course;

“(iii) the amount of the costs under clauses (i) and (ii) that are covered by the educational assistance provided to the individual under chapter 30, 32, 33, or 35 of this title, or chapter 1606 or 1607 of title 10, as the case may be;

“(iv) the type and amount of Federal financial aid not administered by the Secretary and financial aid offered by the institution that the individual may qualify to receive;

“(v) an estimate of the amount of student loan debt the individual would have upon graduation;

“(vi) information regarding graduation rates;

“(vii) job-placement rates for graduates of the course, if available;

“(viii) any conditions or additional requirements, including training, experience, or examinations, required to obtain the license, certification, or approval for which the course of education is designed to provide preparation; and

“(ix) other information to facilitate comparison by the individual of aid packages offered by different educational institutions.

“(B) Not later than 15 days after the date on which the institution (or the governing body of the institution) determines tuition rates and fees for an academic year that is different than the amount being charged by the institution, provide a covered individual enrolled in a course of education at the educational institution with the form under subparagraph (A) that contains updated information.

“(C) Maintain policies to—

“(i) inform each covered individual enrolled in a course of education at the educational institution of the availability of Federal financial aid not administered by the Secretary and financial aid offered by the institution; and

“(ii) alert such individual of the potential eligibility of the individual for such financial aid before packaging or arranging student loans or alternative financing programs for the individual.

“(D) Maintain policies to—

“(i) prohibit the automatic renewal of a covered individual in courses and programs of education; and

“(ii) ensure that each covered individual approves of the enrollment of the individual in a course.

“(E) Provide to a covered individual enrolled in a course of education at the educational institution with information regarding the requirements to graduate from such course, including information regarding when required classes will be offered and a timeline to graduate.

“(F) With respect to an accredited educational institution, obtain the approval of the accrediting agency for each new course or program of the institution before enrolling covered individuals in such courses or programs if the accrediting agency determines that such approval is appropriate under the substantive change requirements of the accrediting agency regarding the quality, objectives, scope, or control of the institution.

“(G) Maintain a policy that—

“(i) ensures that members of the Armed Forces, including the reserve components and the National Guard, who enroll in a course of education at the educational institution may be readmitted at such institution if such members are temporarily unavailable or have to suspend such enrollment by reason of serving in the Armed Forces; and

“(ii) otherwise accommodates such members during short absences by reason of such service.

“(H) Designate an employee of the educational institution to serve as a point of contact for covered individuals and the family of such individuals needing assistance with respect to academic counseling, financial counseling, disability counseling, and other information regarding completing a course of education at such institution, including by referring such individuals and family to the appropriate persons for such counseling and information.

“(2) Except as provided by paragraph (5), a State approving agency, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency, shall take an action described in paragraph (4)(A) if the State approving agency, the Secretary, or the Federal Trade Commission, determines that an educational institution does any of the following:

“(A) Carries out fraudulent or persistent recruiting techniques, including on military installations, that may include—

“(i) misrepresentation or payment of incentive compensation;

“(ii) during any one-month period making three or more unsolicited contacts to a covered individual, including contacts by phone, email, or in-person; or

“(iii) engaging in same-day recruitment and registration.

“(B) Pays inducements, including any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, transportation, lodging, meals, or other item having a monetary value of more than a de minimis amount, to any individual or entity, or its agents including third-party lead generators or marketing firms other than salaries paid to employees or fees paid to contractors in conformity with all applicable laws for the purpose of securing enrollments of covered individuals or obtaining access to educational assistance under this title, with the exception of scholarships, grants, and tuition reductions provided by the educational institution.

“(3) A State approving agency, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency, shall take an action described in paragraph (4)(A) if the State approving agency or the Secretary determines that an educational institution is the subject of a negative action made by the accrediting agency that accredits the institution, including any of the following:

“(A) A show cause order.

“(B) Accreditor sanctions.

“(C) Accreditation probation.

“(D) The loss of accreditation or candidacy for accreditation.

“(4) (A) An action described in this subparagraph is any of the following:

“(i) Publishing a warning on the internet website of the Department described in section 3698(c)(2) of this title, or such other similar internet website of the Department, that describes how an educational institution is failing to meet a requirement under paragraph (1) or (2).

“(ii) Prohibiting the pursuit by an individual of a course of education at an educational institution under chapter 30, 32, 33, or 35 of this title, or chapter 1606 or 1607 of title 10, during the period beginning on the date of such prohibition and ending on a date specified by the State approving agency, in consultation with the Secretary, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency, unless the individual was enrolled at the institution before such period.

“(B) The Secretary shall establish guidelines to ensure that the actions described in subparagraph (A) are applied in a proportional and uniform manner by State approving agencies, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency.

“(5) The Secretary may waive the requirements of paragraph (1) or waive the requirements of paragraph (2) with respect to an educational institution for a one-academic-year period beginning in August of the year in which the waiver is made. A single educational institution may not receive waivers under this paragraph for more than two consecutive academic years.

“(6) On an annual basis, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and make publicly available, a report that includes the following:

“(A) A summary of each action described in paragraph (4)(A) made during the year covered by the report, including—

“(i) the name of the educational institution;

“(ii) the type of action taken;

“(iii) the rationale for the action, including how the educational institution was not in compliance with this subsection;

“(iv) the length of time that the educational institution was not in such compliance; and

“(v) whether the educational institution was also not in compliance with this subsection during any of the two years prior to the year covered by the report.

“(B) A summary and justifications for the waivers made under paragraph (5) during the year covered by the report, including the total number of waivers each educational institution has received.

“(C) Recommendations of the Secretary with respect to any legislative actions the Secretary determines appropriate to ensure that this subsection is carried out in a manner that is consistent with the requirements that educational institutions must meet for purposes of other departments or agencies of the Federal Government.

“(7) In this subsection, the term ‘covered individual’ means an individual who is pursuing a course of education at an educational institution under chapter 30, 32, 33, or 35 of this title.”.

SEC. 3. Improvements to limitation on certain advertising, sales, and enrollment practices.

(a) Substantial misrepresentation.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (a) of section 3696 of title 38, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

“(a) The Secretary shall not approve the enrollment of an eligible veteran or eligible person in any course offered by an institution, or by an entity that owns the institution, engaged in substantial misrepresentation described in subsection (e)(1).”.

(2) DEFINITIONS.—Such section is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

“(e) (1) Substantial misrepresentation described in this paragraph is substantial misrepresentation by an educational institution, a representative of the institution, or any person with whom the institution has an agreement to provide educational programs, marketing, advertising, recruiting or admissions services, concerning any of the following:

“(A) The nature of the educational program of the institution, including misrepresentation regarding—

“(i) the particular type, specific source, or nature and extent, of the accreditation of the institution or a course of education at the institution;

“(ii) whether a student may transfer course credits to another institution;

“(iii) conditions under which the institution will accept transfer credits earned at another institution;

“(iv) whether successful completion of a course of instruction qualifies a student—

“(I) for acceptance to a labor union or similar organization; or

“(II) to receive, to apply to take, or to take an examination required to receive a local, State, or Federal license, or a nongovernmental certification required as a precondition for employment, or to perform certain functions in the States in which the educational program is offered, or to meet additional conditions that the institution knows or reasonably should know are generally needed to secure employment in a recognized occupation for which the program is represented to prepare students;

“(v) the requirements for successfully completing the course of study or program and the circumstances that would constitute grounds for terminating the student's enrollment;

“(vi) whether the courses of education at the institution are recommended or have been the subject of unsolicited testimonials or endorsements by—

“(I) vocational counselors, high schools, colleges, educational organizations, employment agencies, members of a particular industry, students, former students, or others; or

“(II) officials of a local or State government or the Federal Government;

“(vii) the size, location, facilities, or equipment of the institution;

“(viii) the availability, frequency, and appropriateness of the courses of education and programs to the employment objectives that the institution states the courses and programs are designed to meet;

“(ix) the nature, age, and availability of the training devices or equipment of the institution and the appropriateness to the employment objectives that the institution states the courses and programs are designed to meet;

“(x) the number, availability, and qualifications, including the training and experience, of the faculty and other personnel of the institution;

“(xi) the availability of part-time employment or other forms of financial assistance;

“(xii) the nature and availability of any tutorial or specialized instruction, guidance and counseling, or other supplementary assistance the institution ill provide students before, during, or after the completion of a course of education;

“(xiii) the nature or extent of any prerequisites established for enrollment in any course of education;

“(xiv) the subject matter, content of the course of education, or any other fact related to the degree, diploma, certificate of completion, or any similar document that the student is to be, or is, awarded upon completion of the course of education; and

“(xv) whether the degree that the institution will confer upon completion of the course of education has been authorized by the appropriate State educational agency, including with respect to cases where the institution fails to disclose facts regarding the lack of such authorization in any advertising or promotional materials that reference such degree.

“(B) The financial charges of the institution, including misrepresentation regarding—

“(i) offers of scholarships to pay all or part of a course charge;

“(ii) whether a particular charge is the customary charge at the institution for a course;

“(iii) the cost of the program and the refund policy of the institution if the student does not complete the program;

“(iv) the availability or nature of any financial assistance offered to students, including a student's responsibility to repay any loans, regardless of whether the student is successful in completing the program and obtaining employment; and

“(v) the student's right to reject any particular type of financial aid or other assistance, or whether the student must apply for a particular type of financial aid, such as financing offered by the institution.

“(C) The employability of the graduates of the institution, including misrepresentation regarding—

“(i) the relationship of the institution with any organization, employment agency, or other agency providing authorized training leading directly to employment;

“(ii) the plans of the institution to maintain a placement service for graduates or otherwise assist graduates to obtain employment;

“(iii) the knowledge of the institution about the current or likely future conditions, compensation, or employment opportunities in the industry or occupation for which the students are being prepared;

“(iv) job market statistics maintained by the Federal Government in relation to the potential placement of the graduates of the institution; and

“(v) other requirements that are generally needed to be employed in the fields for which the training is provided, such as requirements related to commercial driving licenses or permits to carry firearms, and failing to disclose factors that would prevent an applicant from qualifying for such requirements, such as prior criminal records or preexisting medical conditions.

“(2) In this subsection:

“(A) The term ‘misleading statement’ includes any communication made in writing, visually, orally, or through other means, that has the likelihood or tendency to mislead the intended recipient of the communication under the circumstances in which the communication is made. Such term includes the use of student endorsements or testimonials for an educational institution that a student gives to the institution either under duress or because the institution required the student to make such an endorsement or testimonial to participate in a program of education.

“(B) The term ‘misrepresentation’ means any false, erroneous, or misleading statement made directly or indirectly to a student, a prospective student, the public, an accrediting agency, a State agency, or to the Secretary by an eligible institution, one of its representatives, or any person with whom the institution has an agreement to provide educational programs, marketing, advertising, recruiting or admissions services.

“(C) The term ‘substantial misrepresentation’ means misrepresentation in which the person to whom it was made could reasonably be expected to rely, or has reasonably relied, to that person's detriment.”.

(b) Referral.—Subsection (c) of such section is amended by striking the last sentence and inserting the following: “The findings and results of any such investigations shall be referred to the State approving agency, or the Secretary when acting in the role of the State approving agency, who shall take appropriate action in such cases not later than 90 days after the date of such referral.”.

(c) Requirements for nonaccredited courses.—Paragraph (10) of section 3676(c) of such title is amended to read as follows:

“(10) The institution, and any entity that owns the institution, does not engage in substantial misrepresentation described in section 3696(e) of this title. The institution shall not be deemed to have met this requirement until the State approving agency—

“(A) has ascertained from the Federal Trade Commission whether the Commission has issued an order to the institution to cease and desist from any act or practice described in such subsection;

“(B) has, if such an order has been issued, given due weight to that fact; and

“(C) has reviewed the complete record of all advertising, sales, or enrollment materials (and copies thereof) used by or on behalf of the institution during the preceding 12-month period.”.

SEC. 4. Application date.

The amendments made by this Act shall apply to an educational institution beginning on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.