- The University of Arizona Global Campus can once again offer military education benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after losing access for about three weeks this month, the university announced Monday.
- UAGC's current and prospective students will be able to use GI Bill benefits, including funds to cover their tuition and fees and their monthly housing allowances. The VA retroactively greenlit military education benefits for UAGC programs, covering the entire lapsed period.
- Paul Pastorek, UAGC's president, said in a statement that officials worked "around the clock" to rectify the situation through a state agency.
The University of Arizona Global Campus told military-affiliated students in early April that they would temporarily lose access to GI Bill benefits. The loss was due to UAGC moving its headquarters from California to Arizona, which hadn't yet approved the university for VA funding when California pulled its own approval because of the relocation.
The lapse could have spelled trouble for UAGC, which heavily recruits veterans. Nearly 10% of the university's roughly 28,000 students receive financial aid from the VA, according to a snapshot of the institution's demographics shared in February. And in fiscal 2020, roughly 3,400 of the university's students received about $16.5 million from the GI Bill.
After losing VA benefits access, UAGC officials stressed they had followed the rules and instructions of agencies in both states, and they promised to cover the costs of affected students' tuition and fees.
"I'm proud to say we avoided any disruption to our current eligible students and their dependents by providing grant funds until this situation was resolved," Pastorek said in a statement. "We did everything in our power to ensure our military-affiliated students would get the VA benefits they so richly deserve."
The Arizona State Approving Agency confirmed Tuesday that UAGC had regained access to the VA benefits. Last week, the agency submitted its determination to the VA that the university should receive veterans education benefits, and the VA accepted the approval Monday, Nicole Baker, a public and intergovernmental affairs official at the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services, said in an email.
"We recognize that many have been waiting on our determination regarding UAGC and the impact that educational institutions have on the overall well-being of the military-connected community," Baker said. "Our ultimate responsibility is and always will be to serve and take care of this community. We do that by doing our due diligence and ensuring schools meet all the standards required per the U.S. Code and all applicable regulations."
Some are concerned about UAGC regaining access. Veterans Education Success, an advocacy group, had asked the VA earlier this month to "clearly state that it will not entertain any other state approving agency's request to resume approval of UAGC programs."
In the letter, Veterans Education Success President Carrie Wofford cited a federal law that required the VA to take action against institutions that make substantial misrepresentations to students.
Last month, a California court fined Zovio, the former parent of UAGC, $22.4 million in civil penalties for misleading students about the cost and career outcomes of the institution's programs.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017, predating Zovio's sale of UAGC — then known as Ashford University — to the University of Arizona in December 2020. However, critics point out that UAGC still has strong ties to Zovio through a 15-year services contract with the company, which now provides the university with enrollment and marketing services in exchange for a portion of its revenue.
"We're obviously concerned to see that a school with such a troubling history is going to continue to receive GI Bill funds from taxpayer resources," said William Hubbard, vice president for veterans and military policy at Veterans Education Success. The group plans to ask Arizona's state approving agency to conduct a risk-based survey, which would help identify potentially problematic practices at UAGC, Hubbard said.
UAGC did not immediately answer emailed questions Tuesday.