Thousands of Student Veterans Face Unknown Future After College Loses GI Bill Eligibility

by TK Sanders
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Ashford University, a “military-friendly” online college affiliated with the University of Arizona in Phoenix, recently lost its GI Bill eligibility. The GI Bill provides financial benefits to active-duty military and veterans alike; but many universities are accused of preying on military members just to access the guaranteed tuition funding from the government.

At a glance

  • A Phoenix-area college just lost its access to the GI Bill due to improper handling of military student enrollment
  • The University of Arizona purchased the San Diego-based Ashford University in 2020 in a bankruptcy acquisition
  • Now known as the University of Arizona Global Campus, Ashford University also owes over $20 million in a court settlement for military-based impropriety

State offices of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs decide which colleges and universities can receive federal assistance for students in uniform. Therefore, a good working relationship with the VA is crucial for many institutions, and some places will stop at nothing to lure students through their doors.

“Veterans rely on VA’s stamp of approval when choosing a school for their GI Bill benefits,” said Jennifer Esparza, the legal affairs director at bipartisan nonprofit Veterans Education Success. “The veterans we serve are understandably angry when they learn that a school that scammed them is a school VA knew was engaged in substantial misrepresentations; but nevertheless continued receiving approval.”

The Phoenix New Times reported earlier this week that a court ruled in favor of students against Ashford University. The court found that military-affiliated students faced both fraud and deception while attending the school. Many of these kinds of schools promise useful degrees for graduates but lack proper accreditation to issue such degrees.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon ruled last month that the school was guilty of “giving students false information about career outcomes, the pace of degree programs, and transfer credits, in order to entice them to enroll at Ashford.”

Ashford University is just the latest college to lose access to the GI Bill

Ashford University (renamed UAGC) now belongs to the University of Arizona as part of the Global Campus, but it began in California. The University of Arizona purchased the school for just $1 in 2020 and moved the operation from San Diego to the Phoenix Valley. Ever since the move, the school has faced a slippery slope of old wrongs coming to light. Now, it appears as if they’ve lost one of their most important life blood connections to funding: the GI Bill.

“While recent news items may have created unwarranted confusion, UAGC never lost approval to offer VA education benefits, including … the GI Bill,” UAGC spokesperson Linda Robertson said on March 25.

On Wednesday, though, less than two weeks after Robertson’s comments, UAGC lost the privilege to offer educational benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, like the GI Bill.

“The university intends to secure approval to offer VA education benefits as soon as possible,” Robertson said afterwards.

In 2020, UAGC received more than $31 million from the GI Bill, according to the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool. Will Hubbard, vice president for veterans at Veterans Education Success, spoke frankly about UAGC; just the latest college to face punishment regarding their handling of military benefits.

“Either they’re lying, or they’re terribly disorganized,” Hubbard said.

Outsider.com