Frustrations mount as veterans' advocates are stonewalled about Buckingham's ties to "predatory" for-profit school
Veterans advocates have gotten no answers to straightforward questions for weeks; Buckingham’s Senate campaign has said the issue is being raised as a distraction
by Scott Braddock on May 13, 2016 at 9:58 AM
Advocates for veterans feel they are “getting the run around” after raising questions about a Texas Senate candidate’s ties to a for-profit college that’s been accused of “predatory” practices in the way it recruits students – especially its targeting of students who have served in the military. Those advocates say they are “disturbed” at the non-response they’ve received for the past couple weeks.
Austin-area physician Dr. Dawn Buckingham, who’s in a GOP runoff for Senate against Rep. Susan King, has served on the Board of Governors of National American University and has received significant income from the publicly traded company.
NAU was named in a 2012 US Senate committee report as one of the for-profit colleges where there was evidence of “exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation.” The school was also recently featured on KVUE Television in Austin as part of this Defenders Investigation, but the TV report did not mention the connection to this race.
Buckingham’s campaign has said only that the issue has been raised to “distract voters” from Rep. King’s “liberal voting record." Rep. King has called on Buckingham to apologize to veterans and has asked her to explain her financial interest in the company.
Jim Brennan with the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations originally raised the issue with Buckingham about two weeks ago at a Texas Tribune event in Austin. Even though Buckingham promised him she would address his concerns, Brennan said no answers have been forthcoming.
One of the ways National American University and others would recruit students was through a website called GIBill.com, according to the Senate report. On that site, operated by a company called QuinStreet, veterans seeking ways to wisely use their benefits would enter their personal information while under the impression they were being guided by the Veterans Administration.
But the site was actually referring students to for-profit schools like NAU, according to the report. The site was eventually shut down after 20 attorneys general filed suit.
Brennan said the Veterans Coalition has asked both the Buckingham campaign and the school for answers to the following questions:
- Did National American University ever receive potential veteran enrollment "leads" generated by QuinStreet, GIBill.com, or any other entity named in the 2012 U.S. Senate "HELP" Committee report?
- If you did receive these "leads", what was the contractual relationship between NAU and the firms providing the "leads"?
- Over what period of time did NAU participate in working with any of these firms?
The President and CEO of National American University, Robert Shape, sent the veterans group this letter in which he outlined some of the positive programs the school is involved with but answered none of those questions.
In a separate email, Shape told the group to “Please be aware that National American University was not alleged to have engaged in any wrongdoing and was not part of the lawsuit and subsequent settlement between QuinStreet and state attorneys general four years ago.”
The chairman of the veterans group appears to be running out of patience.
“I really didn't need for you to repeat from your April 27 letter all of the various affiliations of NAU,” wrote James Cunningham, Chairman of the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations. “I learned how to read over 60 years ago at Cunningham Elementary in Wichita Falls, Texas! I am disturbed, however, that you did not answer the three very pointed questions that I ask relative to NAU.”
Copyright May 9, 2016, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved.