Days after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was pulling Ashford University’s eligibility to enroll students using the GI Bill ― a move that could also jeopardize its tuition assistance eligibility ― the school believes it has found a fix.
The for-profit school and popular vet destination has been in danger of losing its eligibility to receive VA funds as a result of a court ruling against the school in Iowa last week. The decision came more than a year after Ashford closed its brick-and-mortar campus in that state, and the VA’s withdrawal of eligibility was set to go into effect Aug. 16.
But according to a statement from the school Thursday, Ashford has found a lifeline in Arizona.
“We have been pursuing every available option to ensure our veteran students’ GI Bill benefits are not disrupted. As a result of those efforts, Ashford University has received approval from the state of Arizona to provide GI Bill benefits to its students,” said Lauren Coartney, a spokeswoman for Bridgepoint Education, Ashford’s parent company.
Ashford has more than 800 students and 1,900 alumni in Arizona, she said, and the school has opened an administrative and student service center in Phoenix that will serve as a central location for its employees there.
The school has 41,361 students overall, according to the Education Department.
According to a recent Military Times analysis of federal data for fiscal 2016, Ashford enrolled 7,935 students using $37.8 million in GI Bill benefits and also took in more than $35 million in tuition assistance funds for its 15,603 students attending school on DoD’s dime.
The school still faces administrative procedures and final approval from the VA, but Ashford believes this solution would ensure its veteran students continue to receive their education benefits without disruption.
A VA spokesman confirmed the department is reviewing Ashford’s agreement with the Arizona State Approving Agency to ensure it complies with VA guidelines.
Ashford was the third most popular destination for TA users in fiscal 2016 and had the 15th largest population of students using the GI Bill in the same year.
DoD is monitoring the case and confirmed that the loss of state approval for the use of GI Bill benefits would put Ashford in violation of the agreement that all schools enrolling TA students must sign with DoD.
“When the DoD is made aware of (memorandum of understanding) violations, it pursues appropriate avenues of recourse, up to and including termination of the MOU,” Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Ochoa said in an email. “As such, the Department will follow established procedures in relation to the MOU with Ashford.”
So far, there have not been any changes to the agreement. Ochoa said TA students at Ashford should continue to attend classes and complete their coursework, but also “carefully consider their options.”
“To be clear, this matter has nothing to do with the academic quality of our programs — which are not in question — or the value of what Ashford provides to our military and veteran students,” according to a statement on the school’s website. “We dedicate a specialized support staff, made up of many former service members, to focus on assisting our veteran students with their unique educational needs. And we pride ourselves on helping these brave men and women make the most of the present while planning for their futures.”