Change in law ends reserve tuition program

Students already enrolled in courses through the Reserve Educational Assistance Program will see no disruption in their tuition payments — but they'll have to turn out the lights after classes end.

That's because REAP officials won't be accepting new enrollments.

The 2016 Defense Authorization Act signed into law in before Thanksgiving ended the program, leaving only a four-year window for current participants to finish their degree programs.

REAP was created to provide education benefits to National Guard and reserve members who spent time on active duty but were not eligible for traditional GI Bill offerings. Nearly 14,000 veterans used REAP funds to attend college classes in fiscal 2014, at a cost of $56 million.

But the program is considered redundant now in light of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which offers education benefits to most troops who spent any time on active duty after September 2001.

REAP represented a little more than 1 percent of VA education payouts in fiscal 2014.

Individuals who are enrolled and attending classes through the now-defunct program are eligible to continue receiving benefits until Nov. 25, 2019. Officials anticipate that should cover nearly all participants currently working on degrees.

Students who received REAP money in the past but were not in classes last semester will see their benefits cut off. VA officials said most of those individuals will be able to use Post-9/11 GI Bill funds instead, but are reaching out to affected students to gauge the potential impact of the changes.

"VA is actively working to identify affected veterans who have previously applied for VA benefits to notify them of this change and their potential eligibility for other VA educational assistance programs," officials said in a statement.

They added that would-be new enrollees also can contact VA offices to see if they qualify for other education programs.

Additional information on the program change is available on VA’s website.

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