Veterans in College Left Adrift by Shutdown

Veterans attempting to access their educational benefits are feeling the harsh impact of the government shutdown. Federal loans and grants that have already been processed for this semester are unaffected. But other key supports have been cutoff.  

In fact the GI Bill Hotline is currently inaccessible. Many veterans come from low-income families and are the first in their family to attend college. For them, the inaccessibility of a qualified professional to help them navigate the higher education process is a real blow. 

Even those vets who have successfully enrolled are being dramatically affected. Inside Higher Ed reports that applications for tuition assistance for active servicemen are no longer being processed. This affects newly submitted applications and those already in the system. According to the publication, the Defense Department's tuition assistance program processed about 300,000 applications last year, giving a sense of the number of veterans potentially affected.  "Military educational programs were not included in the law passed just before the shutdown that protects military pay. . . " says Inside Higher Ed.

As a result, active-duty service members have been unable to sign up for online courses. For-profit providers of online education, most notably American Public University and the University of Phoenix, are nervously watching and have sent the message that they will drop servicepeople from their rolls if needs be.

In California, the state community college chancellor’s office is very concerned about the situation of nearly 44,000 veterans attending school there. Paul Feist, spokeman for the office, told the San Francisco Bay Examiner:

Should [a prolonged government shutdown] come about, our student veterans would be left without education benefits and basic housing allowances. It’s probably safe to assume that many student veterans would be forced to drop out of school should this occur.