US Veterans Affairs officials are confident that class disruptions due to resurgent coronavirus cases won’t cause significant challenges for student vets and other GI Bill users this fall. But next spring’s semester could be a different story.
That’s because a host of emergency authorities approved by Congress last year to deal with potential pandemic problems are set to expire this December. Without intervention from lawmakers, students forced into remote learning options by virus outbreaks on campus may lose out on thousands of dollars a month.
“We’ve already started preparing messaging for our students this fall to state that without any additional legislation, we will be going back to the way it used to be prior to the pandemic,” said Charmain Bogue, executive director of VA’s Education Service.
“We’re working very closely with the Hill in terms of any legislative changes that they can consider for the upcoming spring semester. We are hearing from some schools that because of the delta variants and a lot of the uncertainties, they will still probably continue in an online fashion.”
Online Classes Might Decrease Benefits
At issue are rules regarding how GI Bill benefits can be awarded to students attending online classes.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill awards tuition money for college courses, plus a monthly housing stipend and other payouts to cover books and tutoring services. Eligible students attending in-person classes can receive the full financial benefits as soon as they begin classes.
However, under rules passed by Congress, students enrolled in online-only classes receive only half of their housing stipend. The difference can amount to several thousand dollars a semester, depending on where students are living.
The differing payouts came into focus at the end of the spring 2020 college semester, when campuses across America shifted from in-person classes to online coursework in response to the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic. (continue reading)