Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Opening Statement of Hon. John Boozman, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Arkansas
Good afternoon everyone.
The State Approving Agencies have, for many years, been a mainstay in ensuring that veterans attending education and training programs under the various GI Bills receive quality instruction. That is why I thank you, Madam ChairWOMAN, for holding this hearing.
A recent GAO report that updated a 1995 report again found overlaps in the functions performed by the State Approving Agencies, the regional and professional accrediting agencies acting on behalf of the Department of Education, and the oversight services provided by the state employment services. While the recent report was less critical than its predecessor and noted that SAAs did, in fact, provide perspectives not replicated by the other organizations, GAO again recommended a thorough interagency review of how the federal government oversees the education industry. I believe that it is important to begin that process as a means to improve the education and training opportunities for veterans and dependents.
Another issue we face is how much funding should VA provide to the states to act as VA’s agent. VA currently pays the collective SAAs about $19 million out of the Readjustment Benefits Account (RBA). As such, those payments are mandatory spending and beginning in FY 08, the law cuts that funding to $13 million. So, the question before us is what is the value of the services provided by the SAAs?
I note that we will also hear from a regional accrediting agency as well as a representative from the Department of Education. I look forward to their testimony, especially the functions and costs associated with their programs.
I am sorry that witnesses from the accrediting bodies we invited were unable to attend. Their testimony would have been a valuable perspective relative to the GAO’s findings. I would note that accrediting associations overseeing colleges and universities are membership organizations who charge their members significant annual dues as well as large fees for other functions such as approving new courses of instruction. For example, the alma mater of one of our staff is a small liberal arts school in the Midwest with a full time enrollment of about 1800 students. That school pays at least $4,000 in annual dues to its main accrediting association in addition to any fees for special visits. I am not criticizing the accrediting bodies for charging fees, but I thought it important that the Members know this aspect of their operations.
Regarding the Department of Labor, I am looking forward to hearing about the level of their interaction with the SAAs in approving OJT and apprenticeship programs.
Madame Chairwoman, thanks again for your leadership on this issue and I yield back.