NAICU Washington Update

New Training Sessions on 85/15 Rule Announced

April 14, 2022

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Education Services office announced it is holding “office hours” for School Certifying Officials (SCO) that will cover updates on a on a variety of topics, including the 85/15 reporting.  The webinars will be held on April 20 and 21, and will include two options each day to register for and participate in a training.  The notice for the sessions was sent directly to SCOs.
With the notice, VA provided an updated FAQ on 85/15 issues, including additional information on the definitions of supported versus non-supported students, and the definition and examples of restricted institutional aid. Both of these are critical to how private, nonprofit colleges package financial aid, and are at the crux of the problems institutions are facing with the reset of the rule.
The higher education community continues to have concerns with the VA implementation of the 35% waiver rest and 85/15 reporting requirements, as the definitions do not correlate to commonly-used financial aid practices. These differences could have negative results for veterans and institutions. Veterans might not be able to fully use their earned benefits, or pursue the major they choose, and institutions might be forced to change institutional aid policies, or find participation in the Yellow Ribbon program difficult.
In 2020, VA found a discrepancy between agency oversight and institutional compliance with the 35% waiver, and underlying 85/15 reporting, and decided to reset the application for waivers. This has resulted in two delays to the deadline for compliance, and lots of confusion from institutions that have not previously had to calculate their 85/15 ratios.
The way the provisions work together is that institutions are required to maintain at most 85% supported students (using GI bills benefits) and 15% non-supported students (other) in a major area of study. Institutions with fewer than 35% student veterans in their total enrollment can receive a waiver from the 85/15 reporting. In the past, once institutions received the 35% waiver, they monitored the number of veteran students enrolled, but did not have to report on the 85/15 ratio.
Now that VA wants to restart all waivers, institutions must not only count their veteran students and certify that they make up less than 35% of the total enrollment, they must also calculate for each major area of study, the percentage of “supported versus non-supported” students. As part of the reset, VA has expanded the applicable definition of “supported student” so broadly that two major issues are arising at institutions: 1) an unexpectedly high number of programs are being deemed ineligible to further serve GI bill beneficiaries; 2) and an unexpected additional amount of institutional aid, on top of Yellow Ribbon benefits, must be provided to veteran students so that the institution can be in compliance with the rule.
The higher education community has been working diligently with VA to explain the issues from the institutional perspective, so that it understands how institutions see GI Bill benefits folding into institutional aid and Title IV federal student aid. Institutions want to ensure that veteran students can use the educational benefits they have earned to pursue the program that they choose.

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