Our Veterans face a steep climb when reentering civilian life. For those hoping to use their GI Bill benefits towards a postsecondary degree, their journey is made even more difficult by the 85/15 Rule. This rule classifies enrolled students who have any portion of their tuition, fees, or other charges paid for them by institutional or VA aid as “supported students”. For Veterans to receive their education benefits, the educational program they are enrolled in must be comprised of at least 15% non-supported students. An institution is exempt when fewer than 35 percent of enrolled students receive VA benefits. While this may sound like a reasonable accommodation to protect Veterans from predatory programs, the reality is far from it.
The ratio of supported to non-supported students must be reported upon by the institution on a regular cadence. This fluctuation can lead to Veterans being denied their benefits and places an administrative burden upon the reporting intuition. For instance, if a Veteran is enrolled in an approved program and is deployed for active duty or active status, they may be denied their education benefits when attempting to re-enroll due to changes in the program’s 85/15 ratio.
The federal regulations for 85/15 were established in 1952 during the Korean War when many fly-by-night programs targeted veterans and then proceeded to take their benefits and close their doors. Conceived as a safeguard against fraudulent and low-quality programs, the 85/15 Rule has instead indirectly hurt many Veterans. By taking away their right to use their VA education benefits, Veterans are forced to take out loans to stay in school, switch degree programs, or stop attending school without obtaining their degrees.
The VA has recently proposed changes to the 85/15 Rule which would only cause further harm to Student Veterans. Under these new regulations, students receiving any institutional aid would count as “supported students.” Furthermore, it would add additional waiver criteria, and increase reporting frequency. Our Veterans have fought for their right to use their educational benefits towards the program of their choice, without being hampered by red tape or risking financial insolvency in pursuing it.
While it is in everyone’s best interest to streamline the 85/15 Rule, these proposed changes will only serve to further stymie the educational ambitions of our Veterans, and add undue bureaucratic burdens upon institutions of higher education. We encourage the VA to reconsider and consult with relevant stakeholders concerning this issue.
Military and veteran-serving organizations have submitted a comment letter in response to the proposed regulatory changes concerning 85/15 Rule calculations, waiver criteria, and reports. Read it here.