Military Veterans Can Again Use VA School Benefits at UA Global Campus

Military veterans enrolled at the University of Arizona’s Global Campus are set to receive federal benefits again after the new online school faced a funding hiatus as its headquarters moved from another state.

The University of Arizona bought the old university from Ashford in late 2020 and renamed it UAGC in a controversial deal that has come under continued criticism due to the city’s checkered past. online school, challenges related to accreditation and legal exposure.

Arizona’s state approving agency, which evaluates veterans’ education benefit programs, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday gave UAGC approval to start afresh. provide VA education benefits to students affiliated with the military, according to school officials.

The new approval comes about three weeks after UAGC told students it lost its ability to provide veterans education benefits through the VA and GI Bill as it moved its headquarters social from California to Arizona, leaving students uncertain whether they should stick with UAGC or transfer schools. Not being re-approved would have been a blow to the online school.

UAGC says the benefits will be “recertified” so that students do not experience any interruption to their tuition, fees or housing allowances due to forfeiture.

UAGC President Paul Pastorek said staff were working “around the clock” with the state approval agency to get benefits approved.

“I am proud to say that we have avoided any disruption to our currently eligible students and their dependents by providing grant funds until this situation is resolved. We have done everything in our power to ensure that our military-affiliated students receive the VA benefits they so richly deserve, Pastorek said in a statement.

About 28% of UAGC students were affiliated with the military in February, including active, veteran, spouse, dependent, Department of Defense and VA employees and reservists, according to the UAGC website. school. UAGC markets itself as a “military-friendly college” with flexible online support and courses.

VA officials said in an emailed statement that the VA has accepted the Arizona agency’s decision to approve UAGC’s application for GI Bill education benefits, effective March, 31st.

“Based on this approval date, there will be no gap in GI Bill benefit coverage for previously enrolled GI Bill students, and UAGC school certifiers may submit enrollments from GI Bill students to VA for processing. There are no outstanding issues at this time,” the VA spokesperson wrote Monday.

The Arizona state approval agency said its approval was based on UAGC accreditation, state licensing, federal rules and state standards.

This “bureaucratic snafu,” as UAGC has called the benefits issue, isn’t the only challenge the school has faced since its founding in affiliation with the University of Arizona from its predecessor the University. Ashford.

He had credentialing issues, concerns from the U.S. Department of Education, and a judge in a high-profile lawsuit that ruled that Ashford and Zovio, UAGC’s educational technology service provider, misled the misleading students to enroll and gave them false or misleading information, resulting in a $22 million penalty for those actions prior to the formation of UAGC. (Zovio, not UAGC or UA, is responsible for paying this.)

UA is working to fully acquire online school for some 28,000 students, a plan that was accelerated amid concerns from federal regulators late last year.

On April 20, Pastorek told a state board of education that the school was in “good shape” — that Zovio was stable, UAGC was making progress with its accreditor, and funding prospects for the VA were supportive.

And AU Chairman Robert Robbins has repeatedly defended the partnership and the planned acquisition of UAGC in the face of controversy and criticism. But in mid-April, he also said he was “surely concerned” about ongoing issues at UAGC, including the unresolved hiatus in veterans’ benefits, UAGC’s financial stability and of Zovio and the reputation of the AU.

But, he said, AU involvement is always the best thing for UAGC students. He said the AU was working to help the UAGC deal with the VA, accreditors and the Ministry of Education.

“I feel good about the path UAGC is taking, but these issues absolutely need to be addressed,” Robbins said.

UA spokeswoman Pam Scott said in an email Monday that the university was “pleased that UAGC has worked diligently and successfully with the State Approval Agency of Arizona and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to resolve this issue.

What happened with VA benefits

Veteran UAGC students were notified by the Veterans Benefits Administration in early April that their educational benefits would run out. The California agency responsible for approving education benefits through federal veterans withdrew its approval when UAGC left the state. The university sought approval from the Arizona counterpart in December, but did not get approval in time to avoid a gap.

“You may want to consider transferring to another program or school to avoid or minimize disruptions to your education benefits,” the VA told students receiving GI Bill benefits in an email sent early. April at The Republic by a student.

UAGC told its military students they would experience a gap in coverage due to the campus move. UAGC said it will provide students with a grant to cover tuition and fees to make up for lapsed federal funding.

UAGC had explained the situation as “an unfortunate timing issue in the review of our application between the two state agencies,” as UAGC shut down its California site to move forward with its endorsement in Arizona. .

“I’m happy to say that the student body has remained fairly stable during this two-week hiatus that we find ourselves in,” Pastorek told the Arizona State Council for Private Post-Secondary Education on Wednesday.

In recent weeks, education and veterans’ advocacy groups have called on the VA and the Department of Education to cut UAGC from veterans benefits and federal financial assistance programs. Much of the basis for these claims is the California judge’s recent decision against Zovio, although the judge found no issues since the UAGC’s inception.

Zovio provides educational and technology services such as enrollment and financial aid processing at UAGC in exchange for a significant portion of tuition revenue. The deal between Zovio and UAGC runs until mid-2036, and Zovio pays UAGC and then gets up to 20% of the school’s annual tuition revenue.

Zovio executives said in an April 15 appeal with stakeholders that they were disappointed with the judge’s decision and the company filed a motion for a new trial or to overturn the judgment. If that isn’t successful in his hearing in May, the company can appeal.

Zovio is reassessing the company’s strategy, “including potential divestments,” CEO Randy Hendricks said on the call, but he didn’t provide many more details. Zovio runs TutorMe and Fullstack Academy in addition to his work with UAGC. New UAGC enrollments are down 22% year-over-year in 2021, but Zovio expects enrollment to improve by mid-year.

UAGC has been looking for other contractors in case it needs to switch from Zovio in the future, per Pastorek.

UA’s Robbins said two weeks ago that the university had been in daily contact with UAGC officials “to better understand and monitor where they are at with this variety of hurdles they face.” .

Have a higher education story? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alsteinbach.

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