NASFAA joined more than a dozen other higher education organizations in a letter praising new legislation that addresses concerns stemming from recent policy changes to the 85-15 rule by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The letter, addressed to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committees, supports the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022, which fixes recent changes in the requirements for a 35% exemption under the 85-15 rule. NASFAA and other higher education organizations first raised concerns over the 85-15 rule changes in a March letter.
The 85-15 rule provides safeguards for veterans and their GI Bill benefits against fraud by ensuring that at least 15% of the students in any education program are not using GI bill benefits to pay for the program, the letter notes. The current law states the 85-15 rule exempts institutions with a total veteran population of less than 35% from having to compute or submit 85-15 ratios on a program-by-program basis.
However, as part of VA’s 85-15 rule reset, the VA has required institutions to submit 85-15 ratios as part of their application for the 35% exemption and to resubmit these calculations every two years.
The reset has resulted in numerous programs at institutions across the country prohibiting enrolling veterans next semester, the letter states. Additionally, many higher education programs have lost eligibility even though there was not a single veteran enrolled in the program.
The new legislation, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) last month, would add a clarification that institutions with a veteran population less than 35% would be exempt from the 85-15 rule.
“By clarifying the 35 percent exemption, your legislation will undo the negative impacts of VA’s recent policy change on institutions with low total veteran populations and the veterans they serve,” the letter states. “It will also ensure that veterans who attend these institutions will be able to enroll in their program of choice.”
The letter adds that one survey of independent non-profit colleges found that 99% of respondents reported they served student veterans, with nearly 90% participating in the Yellow Ribbon program. Additionally, all the institutions, with one exception, reported they had had fewer than 35% veteran student enrollment on campus.
The survey also found that of the institutions that have heard back from VA regarding their 35% exemption, over 20% had programs deemed ineligible for veteran enrollment, which includes programs in information systems, computer science, cybersecurity, and more.
“Without this critical fix, institutions will be forced to deny veterans from enrolling in certain programs at their campuses, and in some cases, may be forced to turn them away entirely,” the letter states.
Publication Date: 7/7/2022