The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has been mulling a potential bill aimed at online college programs that enroll veterans of the U.S. military, according to several well-placed observers.
The legislative proposal would increase the monthly housing stipend for GI Bill recipients who are enrolled in online programs
—a boost long sought by some colleges. Currently, Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients who are enrolled in online programs are limited to half the monthly housing allowance (which varies
based on location and other factors, but averages about $1,800). The proposal would open up the full allowance to online students.
Republicans on the committee generally have backed lifting the 50 percent cap. And to make the bill more attractive to Democrats, the committee has considered a requirement that benefit-eligible institutions spend at least 35 percent of their tuition revenue on instruction, academic support, and student services.
It’s not clear how many institutions might run afoul of such a requirement, which sources said would cover eligibility for a wide range of veterans’ benefits, including other forms of the GI Bill as well as retraining programs.
, executive director of Higher Learning Advocates, said the discussion over the proposal was timely and should lead to a “balanced solution that ensures military-connected students receive an appropriate housing allowance as well as a high-quality education that provides a strong return on investment for their hard-earned benefits.” Peller, a former Democratic committee staff member, said the debate will have broader implications as online learning continues to grow and evolve
, an issue on which her organization recently wrote
“It is important that quality and equity continue to remain central to the conversation around online learning,” she said.
The bill is stalled in the committee. Yet legislation affecting veterans can move quickly. And the committee, one of few on the Hill where bipartisanship still holds sway, could drop the bill as part of a package. Stay tuned.
Short-Term Pell and Spending Requirements
As an Education Department official during the Obama administration, Robert Shireman
led the creation of the gainful-employment rule
, which sought accountability for vocational programs (mostly those offered by for-profit institutions) based on a measure of whether graduates were repaying their student loans.
The Trump administration nixed the rule. But many predict the eventual return of a similar federal metric—perhaps one applied more broadly across higher education.
The influential Shireman, now director of higher education excellence and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, has weighed in on the bipartisan congressional push to open up federal Pell Grants to education and training programs of 15 weeks or less in length.
First, he wrote
that short-term Pell should include a requirement for matching funds from employers
or for at least half of tuition revenue to go toward the instruction of students enrolled in eligible programs. After speaking with a group of community college officials, Shireman last week described a simplified version
of the consumer-protection idea. Here’s his suggested language for such a requirement:
Program expenditures for instruction, academic support, and student services, excluding pre-enrollment expenditures (such as recruiting and advertising), [must] amount to more than half of the revenue from program tuition and fees.
Shireman wrote that the provision “would provide some assurance that short-term Pell Grants are not being used primarily as a money-maker to finance a school’s other programs or to enrich contractors engaged in recruiting operations.”