VA Backs Down on Threat to Suspend Ashford University's GI Bill Eligibility

The Trump administration this week granted a reprieve to Ashford University, which was facing a loss of its ability to enroll student veterans using GI Bill education benefits, reported The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In November, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) warned the online for-profit school that it failed to comply with federal rules requiring institutions to be approved by the veterans agency in their home state. VA officials said at the time that they would "suspend payments" for the thousands of GI Bill students who attend Ashford if the problem was not resolved in 60 days.

Ashford, whose corporate headquarters is located in San Diego, had previously gone to great lengths to obtain its state authorization from someplace other than California, which has a reputation for tough scrutiny of for-profit schools, the Chronicle reported. Instead, the institution relied on approval from Arizona state regulators to receive GI Bill funding, even though Ashford had only a small rented office in the state. That approval, the VA said, was "legally insufficient" because the school's "main campus is not located in Arizona."

Shortly after the VA threatened to cut off funding, Ashford asked an appeals court to overturn the agency's finding that the university lacked proper state approval. That case remains pending.

This week, the Trump administration decided to voluntarily stay the suspension of GI Bill eligibility that would otherwise go into effect on January 9, 2018 until the appeals court renders a judgement.

Curt Cashour, a spokesman for the VA, said that there was a risk the courts would halt any enforcement action while the appeal was pending, and that, "in that event, VA would still be paying benefits and Ashford would not be undertaking any corrective actions."

Instead, the department opted to pause the suspension on the condition that the university seek approval from the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education, which Ashford did on Friday. If the state agency approves Ashford's application,  that "would bring Ashford into compliance with Federal laws and regulations, and prevent thousands of beneficiaries from having their benefits cut off," Cashour added.


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