More than 3,000 student veterans whose school had its GI Bill eligibility revoked last week will continue to get tuition payments through the end of this semester, but face an uncertain future beyond that.
On March 30, the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education officially withdrew GI Bill approval for all coursework offered by the University of Arizona Global Campus, formerly known as Ashford University.
The move followed a decision by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education revoking the school’s license to operate in the state. Without that approval, students are unable to use GI Bill benefits to pay for any of the for-profit school’s 90 education programs.
In a statement, Department of Veterans Affairs officials said they are “closely monitoring this situation and notifying impacted GI Bill beneficiaries of CSAAVE’s action and options that may be available to them.”
About 3,000 students who were enrolled in coursework at UAGC prior to March 30 will be able to continue receiving tuition and related benefits through the end of their current term. But whether they’ll be able to complete degree programs with the school or at other institutions remains unclear.
The school could also get a new operating license approved in a separate state, but that process can take months or years. It is unclear whether officials plan to do that and whether a new license could be approved before the fall semester.
Under federal law, VA leaders can restore full GI Bill benefits for students “whose school has closed or been disapproved,” but only under certain circumstances.
VA officials said the UAGC situation does not fall under those specific requirements, although outside advocates have already called for the department to reconsider that interpretation.
“Veterans rely on VA’s stamp of approval when choosing a school for their GI Bill benefits,” Jennifer Esparza, legal affairs director at Veterans Education Success, said in a statement. “We urge VA to put veterans first by embracing the law that protects veterans from deceptive recruiting.”
In a separate legal fight last month, a California court fined Ashford University and its former owners more than $22 million in penalties for giving misleading statements to prospective students about their education programs and post-college career prospects. UAGC officials are not liable for those penalties, which are based on actions that occured before its ownership and name change in late 2020.
Officials from Veterans Education Success argue that the VA could terminate the school’s GI Bill eligibility based on that court ruling, thereby making students eligible for reinstatement of their GI Bill benefits.
But for now, VA officials said they are not considering that step.
VA paid more than $31 million in GI Bill benefits to UAGC in fiscal 2020, according to department records.
Students with questions about GI Bill payments or other financial support from the department can contact VA’s Education Call Center at 888-442-4551.
Update: In a statement provided to Military Times a day after publication of this story, UAGC officials said they hope to obtain a new operating license in Arizona and regain eligibility for GI Bill funds as soon as possible.
“We will do everything in our power to keep students in the classroom as we await the formal approval in Arizona,” UAGC President Paul Pastorek said. “This is an unacceptable situation for our students and we have already made immediate adjustments such that UAGC is providing grant funds to all affected students so that their education is not impacted by this temporary lapse.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.