If colleges close, student vets should get refunds, members of Congress say in new bill

Abbie Bennett
November 27, 2019 - 1:41 pm
GIBill

Photo by Master Sgt. William Wiseman/185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard

Student veterans and troops shouldn't have to bear the burden of losing their GI Bill funds if a college closes, members of Congress say. 

Three California Democrat members of the House, Julia Brownley, Gil Cisneros and Mike Levin introduced a bill this month to give states greater oversight responsibility to protect students from economic harm when higher education institutions close. 

The Higher Education Standards Improvement Act requires states to ensure that Title IV-funded schools maintain a "State Tuition Recovery Fund" specifically to refund students who lost education dollars when a school shuts down. 

The bill also would:

  • Require states to maintain student contact information to make sure they have access to their transcripts and proof of their progress toward a degree or certification after a school closes;
  • Directs states to maintain a complaint system and review an institution's facilities, equipment and supplies.

The bill aims to protect students who use Department of Education or Veterans Affairs funding, members said. 

“When higher education institutions close, students can be met with extreme hardships that go beyond just finding a new place to restart their education," Brownley said in a statement. "It is imperative that when this happens, we ensure that our students – especially those who have served our nation in uniform – are properly informed, receive appropriate refunds, and have access to their records." 

"As a Navy veteran and education advocate who benefited from the GI Bill, we need to ensure our veterans receive the best education possible,” Cisneros said. “As our veterans pursue quality education and workforce skills so they can successfully transition back to civilian life, it’s important that their hard-earned benefits are protected, especially when facing the hardships of an unfortunate school closure."

“Students should have every opportunity to pursue a higher education without worrying about the devastating consequences of school closures,” Levin said. “In too many cases, students are left holding the bag when colleges or universities suddenly close, without the refunds or records they deserve. That’s simply not fair, which is why we must ensure that states exercise adequate oversight over closure preparedness among higher education institutions." 

Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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