RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. — As a Marine Corps veteran, David Reyasbautista searched for a new career in his civilian life.

During his pursuit, he says he came across a program about WyoTech, an automotive trade school that was owned by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

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  • Thousands of veterans shared experiences with for-profit colleges not fulfilling job placement promises, according to Chris Madaio of Veterans Education Success

  • David Reyasbaustista, a Marine Corps Veteran, utilized his GI Bill to gain a career in the automotive industry

  • Corinthian Colleges was ordered to pay $1.1 billion dollars in restitution and penalties, filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its California campuses in 2015 for unlawful and predatory practices, according to the State Attorney General’s office

  • A new law will remove a federal loophole that allowed for-profit colleges to consider GI Bills as not federal funds, by 2023

“They, you know, had these uniforms. They were working for people like NASCAR, Ford, Chevy, you name it. The top names out there and they were looking for vets and I myself felt like I could be one of those vets. That’s what really drew me in,” Reyasbautista said.

His journey with the trade school began about 10 years ago, when he says recruiters sold him on his hopes and dreams by making promises of job placement and tuition coverage with his GI Bill. He found out that was not the case.

“They proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t covered. That my GI Bill only covered 70% of my tuition and that I had almost $4,000 that I suddenly had to come up with in the next 24 hours or I was kicked out that day,” he said.

He says he took on the debt, completed the course and showed his certificate to potential employers, but they would not accept his certificate.

The now defunct, Corinthian Colleges was ordered to pay $1.1 billion dollars in restitution and penalties, filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its California campuses in 2015 for unlawful and predatory practices, according to the State Attorney General’s office.

The corporation was one of many for-profit institutions that Chris Madaio with Veterans Education Success believes took advantage of a federal loophole that allowed GI Bills not to count as federal funds.

He says it also led to thousands of complaints from veterans nationwide.

“It incentivized schools to fill their 90% with student loans and grants and their 10% with GI Bill money and that’s really why they went after veterans,” Madaio said.

In March, Congress approved a new law that closes that loophole in 2023. In the meantime, veterans like Reyasbautista shared their story before the Department of Education to prevent it from happening again.

“About six months ago, they finally relieved me of my loans. But the problem is, how can I go back to school if I don’t get my GI Bill back?” he said.

While it might be difficult to get those benefits back, he is hoping his story will protect other veterans from losing out on the benefits they’ve earned. 

One WyoTech campus remains open under new ownership by Jim Mathis in Wyoming. He sent Spectrum News 1 this statement about the status of WyoTech:

“It is true the WyoTech campuses have had a change of hands a couple times since Corinthian owned the WyoTech brand and its campuses.

I purchased WyoTech’s Laramie campus in 2018 — a single campus — as a family-owned school. At the time of the purchase, we had 12 students and 12 employees. Today, I am happy to report that our vision of offering the best experience, the best training, and the best outcomes is supporting us in continued growth with nearly 700 students on campus and over 150 employees. This growth, I believe, is rooted in our great employees with a passion for the automotive and diesel trades who have great pride in educating students for entry-level jobs for their field of study while offering a student experience similar to that of a University with student housing on site, events, etc.

WyoTech is a single-operating campus in Laramie and offers alumni of WyoTech free refresher courses that correspond specifically to the courses we offer today. These refreshers are on campus and correspond to the curriculum available for current students. We also have a career services department that is happy to service WyoTech alumni in their job search regardless of the campus they graduated from.

I was a student at WyoTech in the 1970s and worked my way up to president before the sale of the school, which I left shortly after as our visions did not align. I am blessed for what WyoTech provided me and my family over several decades, and it is an honor to have WyoTech back and bring its brand and name to the forefront as a respectable training school that gives every student the training they need to succeed. We also believe in personal responsibility. We are confident our training will prepare students for entry level careers, and it is the responsibility of our students to take advantage of our career services department to attend quarterly career fairs with hundreds of employers across the nation in seeking opportunities.

WyoTech is embarking on an exciting local expansion as we continue to grow in size and serve our country in blue collar trade education, as we are experiencing a deficit in automotive and diesel technicians. I believe the blend of demand in our economy with the vision of our family owned philosophy is the reason for our growth and excitement for our school.”