Ashford University has received the Department of Veterans Affairs’ stamp of approval to continue enrolling GI Bill students long-term.
The announcement comes after a tumultuous summer for the online for-profit school, which was, at one time, scheduled to lose its eligibility to receive VA funds in August after losing its state-level approval in Iowa. Ashford then sought approval in Arizona and was permitted to continue enrolling veteran students for the new school year, pending approval from VA.
It got that Wednesday, according to a letter to students from Ashford President Craig Swenson. A VA spokesman confirmed this was the final step to certify students’ use of GI Bill funds through the school’s Arizona location.
“We appreciate the VA and Arizona (State Approving Agency) for working to complete this process and ensuring there was no disruption to students’ GI Bill education benefits,” Swenson said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to serve these students and assisting them in achieving their educational goals.”
In July, an Iowa court ruled against Ashford’s request to retain state eligibility for its online programs, more than a year after the school closed its only campus in the state. The school of more than 40,000 students, which is the 15th most popular college destination for GI Bill users, turned to Arizona, opening an administrative and student service center in Phoenix.
Federal approval of the move wasn’t guaranteed; the VA did not accept the Arizona State Approving Agency’s initial notice of approval and had requested additional information. But Thursday, a VA spokesman said the department had acknowledged the state’s approval of the university and that there would be no immediate impact to Ashford students using GI Bill benefits.
He said in an email, “VA continues to review adherence to statutory and regulatory requirements relating to this approval. In all cases, we urge G.I. Bill recipients to make informed decisions regarding the use of their education benefits.”
Loss of VA approval could have also impacted the school’s eligibility to enroll active-duty military students using tuition assistance, since schools must have VA approval in order to receive funds from the Department of Defense.
In fiscal 2016, the most recent year for which VA data is available, Ashford enrolled 15,603 students using tuition assistance and 7,935 on the GI Bill.