Members of the U.S. House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs recently introduced legislation to address concerns stemming from recent policy changes to the 85-15 rule by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The bipartisan, bicameral Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022 would clarify congressional intent regarding the 85-15 rule and the 35 percent exemption and address several other challenges resulting from VA's 85-15 reset—including a requirement that institutions perform 85-15 computations at the major, minor and concentration level and a new interpretation of what constitutes a "supported student."
AACRAO has been engaged with a higher education coalition to work with the VA, as well as congressional staff, to provide relief to institutions participating in VA educational benefits programs. The coalition sent a letter to leaders of the the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs in support of the legislation, urging its swift passage.
As the letter explains, the 85-15 rule "provides important safeguards for veterans and their GI Bill benefits against waste, fraud and abuse." The law "seeks to ensure that at least 15 percent of the students in any education program are not using GI bill benefits to pay for the program" in an effort to combat predatory institutional practices.
Under current law, the 85-15 rule exempts institutions with a total veteran population of less than 35 percent from having to compute or submit 85-15 ratios on a program-by-program basis, the letter notes. However, as part of the recent policy reset, the VA rescinded all 35 percent exemptions currently in effect and started to require campuses to provide 85-15 ratios for every program at the institution and to resubmit these calculations every two years.
Due to these changes, as well as the new "supported student" guidance, the coalition warns that "numerous programs at colleges and universities across the country will be prohibited from enrolling veterans next term."
The groups praise the provisions included in the proposed bill, particularly its clarification of the 35 percent exemption. The 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 coalition adds. "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."
Letter in Support of the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act