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House of Prayer Called ‘Predatory’ by Veterans’ Education Benefits Oversight Group

A spokesman for a veterans’ advocacy group testifying before the U. S. House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee last week called out seminaries associated with the House of Prayer Christian Church as “predatory actors” that have taken advantage of military members by promising an education in exchange for government benefits but delivering little.

The FBI raided numerous locations associated with the House of Prayer, which runs five bible seminaries and 12 churches, in June after former students tipped off authorities about alleged discrepancies between what they were promised in exchange for their GI Bill benefits and what they received. Students interviewed by the advocacy group Veterans Education Success (VES) said they had used up all their government education money going to school at the seminaries but that none of them had earned any sort of certificate of completion.

“We received numerous complaints from veterans and employees that the school was misleading VA and defrauding students,” testified William Hubbard, vice president for veterans and military policy at VES.

The Christian Post reported that the amount of the alleged fraud topped $7 million.

Hubbard said the House of Prayer raids demonstrated the importance of remaining vigilant against harmful conduct and of establishing “much-needed” minimum quality standards in qualifying schools for GI Bill benefits. 

“No effective system exists to proactively prevent bad programs from being approved to begin with,” he said, calling the statutes governing the GI Bill “seriously outdated.” 

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Hubbard said veterans who enroll in bad programs suffer unrecoverable wasted time, burdensome debts, and personal reputational damage. 

VES is calling for an overhaul of the GI Bill school approval program to only include institutions that ensure educational quality; don’t overcharge for tuition and use the funds only for education; demonstrate a track record of minimum student outcomes; employ appropriately credentialed faculty; demonstrate financial stability; and require recruiters to tell the truth about their programs. 

In the case of House of Prayer, former students and employees interviewed by VES said some of the time they were supposed to be in class was spent doing chores for church leaders or recruiting other students, and that the church also allegedly misrepresented teacher qualifications and inflated tuition. 

Hubbard said that during the pandemic, the landscape of higher education became  “dramatically less predictable,” making oversight even more critical.  He also noted that even after the FBI raids, House of Prayer remained an approved GI Bill school for more than a week. 

“Despite showing poor results, many of these programs and schools continue to rake in millions of taxpayer dollars through the recruitment and exploitation of veterans and the abuse of their education benefits,” he said.

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Anne Stych

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