California backed down from a fight with the Department of Veterans Affairs over a decision that restricts the state’s power to regulate for-profit colleges enrolling students with GI Bill benefits.
California had used its authority in the past to sanction colleges with shaky finances and to investigate complaints from veterans who felt misled by higher education programs.
The VA in September announced that it would end the agreement that gives California a role in certifying colleges as eligible to receive GI Bill payments, citing the state’s failure to carry out compliance surveys that track whether veterans’ benefits are paid accurately.
California through the state Department of Veterans Affairs sought to put more resources into investigations, while the VA reiterated in a series of letters that the state had to catch up on the compliance surveys.
“We want to ensure GI Bill beneficiaries are using their well-earned education benefits in programs that meet the quality standards they deserve,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in an Oct. 1 statement announcing the federal government’s move to cut California out of the process.
California initially rebuffed the VA, insisting the state had the resources and authority to continue monitoring programs where students use GI Bill benefits.
It changed its position with a notice to colleges Sept. 30 in which it said it would relinquish its oversight power to the federal agency until it can negotiate a new agreement with the VA.
“We are considering options and cooperating with the VA to ensure the mutual goal of protecting veterans education benefits and tax payers dollars,” California Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Lindsey Sin said.
The GI Bill gives veterans a living allowance and pays for most school expenses for up to 36 months. The benefits can be exhausted, leaving veterans at risk of choosing programs that fail in preparing them for civilian careers. Some can wind up in debt despite the GI Bill’s generous benefits.
Recently, California’s Department of Veterans Affairs has sought to suspend schools for factors that state officials argue violate federal law…. (continue reading)