- A bipartisan bill that would rework parts of the 85-15 rule, a federal law meant to ensure veterans enroll in quality college programs, passed the U.S. Senate last week.
- The 85-15 rule forbids students from using Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to pay for programs in which more than 85% of students enrolled receive GI Bill benefits or other VA aid.
- The statute exempts colleges with low shares of veterans enrolled. But proving institutions qualify for the exemption has become tricky, and the new bill means to streamline the process.
The 85-15 rule tries to ensure that GI Bill and other benefits are not subject to waste and abuse. The rule reasons that if some non-veterans are willing to pay out of pocket for a program, it is more likely a quality one.
Colleges with student populations with less than 35% veterans enrolled do not need to follow the rule.
However, the VA recently revamped its policies, requiring colleges to resubmit proof of their exemption and submit calculations for each of their programs.
This put colleges in a Catch-22, “where they are unable to receive the exemption without first computing the ratios,” wrote the American Council on Education, the higher education’s top lobbying group. ACE supports the new bill.
“As a result, campuses spent multiple days computing 85-15 ratios for hundreds of programs, most of which did not have any veterans enrolled,” ACE wrote.
The organization also noted the VA changed its definition of which students fall under the bill. And so colleges newly found that some programs exceed the 85% threshold, even without a single veteran enrolled.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, and Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, would make the 35% exemption explicit in the law, and clarify the statute’s requirements.
“No veteran should ever cut through bureaucratic red tape to access their hard-earned education benefits, and I urge my House colleagues to follow in the Senate’s footsteps and pass this bill without delay,” Tester said in a statement.
The bill passed the Senate by a voice vote without amendment. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.