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Education and Training

Ashford University

Important information for students attending Ashford University

The Iowa State Approving Agency (IA SAA) determined in May 2016 that they did not have jurisdiction to continue to approve Ashford’s online programs for GI Bill benefits and notified the school of its intent to withdraw approval of those programs. In early August 2016, Ashford filed an amended legal petition to extend approval of their online programs through the Iowa Department of Education until at least June 1, 2017. The Iowa District Court provided a temporary stay to allow time for the court to review the petition and issue a ruling.

Current Status

A recent ruling from the Iowa District Court dismissed Ashford’s petition and affirmed the withdrawal of Ashford University’s online programs from GI Bill approval by the Iowa State Approving Agency. This means that classes offered by Ashford University can no longer be qualified for VA education benefits. 

This ruling will become final at the expiration of a 30-day appeal period which ends on August 16, 2017, unless Ashford University appeals the decision and the court delays implementation. 

 Resources

Please take advantage of the resources below as you consider your options:

  • You may qualify for an emergency grant through the Veterans of Foreign Wars Unmet Needs program to assist with interim living expenses. VFW professional staff can also help answer education benefit questions through 1StudentVeteran@vfw.org.  
  • The American Legion has service officers in every state that can provide answers to questions about education benefits, federal student loans and credit transferability.
  • Student Veterans of America has a network of over 1,400 student chapters at colleges and universities and their staff can provide answers to your questions.
  • VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool can help you review and compare alternative schools.
  • In addition to the GI Bill Comparison Tool, you can also research schools on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
  • For free legal advice and college choice counseling, visit Veterans Education Success website or email them directly, help@VeteransEducationSuccess.org.
  • The American Council on Education’s Military Guide is available for any questions you may have about earning school credit for your service.

VA’s Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

 A history of all email communications sent to students attending Ashford University is located below:

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on June 3, 2016

As a student at Ashford University using GI Bill benefits, I wanted to contact you personally to let you know about a situation that may affect your enrollment and benefits.

The Iowa State Approving Agency, the agency that currently approves Ashford University’s online program, has informed Ashford and VA of its intent to withdraw program approval on June 30, 2016, when the university formally closes its branch campus in Clinton, Iowa.  Ashford has since applied for approval this week in California, the site of its main campus and corporate headquarters.

Here is what this means for you:

  • The California State Approving Agency is doing its best to review Ashford’s information and application quickly.  
  • If Ashford’s online programs are not approved by the California State Approving Agency before July 1, 2016, you will be able to finish any term beginning before June 30, 2016 but you will not be able to receive GI Bill benefits for terms that begin after that date. 

In order to understand the current situation, it’s important to provide you a brief background.  For a school or university to be approved to receive GI Bill benefits, the law requires it to be approved by its respective State Approving Agency (these are state employees working under contract to the VA).  State Approving Agencies approve schools once they have achieved a number of requirements set by both federal and state law. One principal requirement is that the school must operate in the same state as the State Approving Agency.

VA, Ashford University, California, and Iowa are working together to resolve this situation with the least impact to your education plans. 

While I know this may be disconcerting, I thought it important to reach out to each of you individually to be aware of this situation as soon as possible so you can make the best plans possible for your individual situation.   

To help you consider your alternatives, our GI Bill Comparison Tool can assist you; you can take a look at it here and search for other programs to attend.    

I will stay in contact with you by email, and let you know more details as they develop. You can also talk to us on our Facebook page, or contact our Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST). 

Please feel free to pass this on to any classmates who may not have received this email.

Thank you for your service….more to follow. 

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on June 10, 2016

As I mentioned in my note to you last week (below in case you didn’t save it), I want to keep you up to date on the current situation with respect to Ashford University and their approval for GI Bill benefits.

We continue to stay engaged with the California State Approving Agency (SAA) and Ashford regarding their application for program approval.  As of yesterday, Ashford has submitted all the required documents to the California SAA. The California SAA is working hard and expeditiously to go through those documents to ensure due diligence is done and Ashford fully complies with the appropriate laws and regulations. We at VA have offered to provide whatever resources necessary to help the California SAA make an appropriate decision.

To reiterate, if Ashford University is not approved by the California SAA by June 30th, you will be able to finish any class you have started before that date and we will continue to process those benefits on your behalf. However, you will not be able to start any new classes after July 1st and use your GI Bill benefits. For example, if you begin a five-week class on June 27th you will continue to receive GI Bill benefits until the conclusion of that course. If you begin another class on July 2nd, and the California SAA has not approved your program at Ashford for the GI Bill, then you will not receive education benefits for that class.   

We remain committed to the best outcome for our GI Bill students. As any Veteran knows from their military service - it is important to hope for the best and plan for the worst. Here are a few helpful options: 

You can call our Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. As always, you can join the conversation on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @VAVetBenefits.

 As always, thank you for your service….more to follow.

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on June 22, 2016

As promised in my prior emails, here is the latest development in Ashford University’s approval for GI Bill benefits.

Short answer – The current ‘dilemma’ is averted for now and our GI Bill students can continue to attend Ashford until the California State Approving Agency makes a decision between now and the middle of September.

Longer answer - The Iowa State Approving Agency granted a stay of withdrawal for the next 90 days effective June 20, 2016, which pushes the June 30th withdrawal date to either September 18th, (90 calendar days from the date of the letter), or until the California State Approving Agency (CSAAVE) completes its review and issues a decision regarding the approval of Ashford in California – whichever is soonest.   

What does this mean to you?

In my last email (below), I explained what would happen if the California State Approving Agency (CSAAVE) did not approve Ashford’s online programs before June 30, 2016 – that you would be able to finish any class beginning before June 30th but you would not be able to receive GI Bill benefits for classes beginning after that date.

The stay of withdrawal pushes the June 30th date to either September 18th, (90 calendar days from the date of the letter), or until the CSAAVE completes its review and issues a decision regarding the approval of Ashford in California – whichever is soonest. 

What are the possible outcomes?

  • If CSAAVE approves your online program at Ashford, your benefits will not be affected because of the transferal of approval from Iowa to California.
  • If CSAAVE does not approve your online program at Ashford, you will receive benefits for any class(es) you are actively attending as of the date of the denial of program approval.  This means that benefits may only continue for, in general, a maximum of five weeks for undergraduate classes and six weeks for graduate classes.  VA will not be able to pay benefits for any class(es) that begin after the date of the denial of program approval, should that occur. 

As always, please feel free to contact our Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement, or join the conversation on our Facebook page and Twitter pages.

I will continue to stay in touch and send updates as soon as they occur so you can make the choices you need to make with the best information available. 

Thank you for your service….more to follow.  

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on September 16, 2016

Background

To recap, Ashford University closed their residential campus in Clinton, Iowa, on June 30, 2016. Based on Ashford’s closure, it was determined that the Iowa State Approving Agency (IA SAA) did not have jurisdiction to continue to approve Ashford’s online programs for GI Bill benefits.

In early August, Ashford filed an amended legal petition to extend approval of their online programs through the Iowa Department of Education until at least June 1, 2017. The Iowa District Court provided a stay until September 18, 2016 to allow time for the court to review the petition and issue a ruling.

Current Status

A judge has temporarily extended the stay past September 18, 2016 until he issues a final decision, which could happen at any time.

This means you may continue to receive GI Bill benefits for any classes that begin on or after September 18, 2016. However, depending upon the judge’s decision, you may not be able to receive GI Bill benefits after a final decision is made.

Given the fact that Ashford has not provided any new information showing how they meet regulatory requirements needed to operate in Iowa, there is a high-risk that Ashford could lose approval for their online programs.  

Although this gives you additional time to use your benefits, please still take the time now to consider where you are in your educational pursuits and how to best move forward. Unfortunately, VA does not have the legal authority to restore any GI Bill entitlement you have used to attend Ashford University should they lose approval for their online programs. Please take advantage of the resources below as you make your decisions.

As always, our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/gibilleducation) or follow us on Twitter @VAVetBenefits.

 As always, I will continue to stay in touch and send updates as soon as they are available.

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on January 9, 2017

This is an update to my last email of September 16, 2016 concerning Ashford University’s request for approval of their online programs to allow for the payment of GI Bill benefits.

Background

To recap, the Iowa State Approving Agency (IA SAA) determined in May 2016 that they did not have jurisdiction to continue to approve Ashford’s online programs for GI Bill benefits and notified the school of its intent to withdraw approval of those programs.

In early August 2016, Ashford filed an amended legal petition to extend approval of their online programs through the Iowa Department of Education until at least June 1, 2017. The Iowa District Court provided a temporary stay to allow time for the court to review the petition and issue a ruling.

Current Status

The stay is still in force. This means you may continue to receive GI Bill benefits for enrolling in classes at Ashford. However, depending upon the judge’s decision, you may not be able to receive GI Bill benefits after a final decision is made. It is important to note that VA is not directly involved in the lawsuit and therefore does not have all the information regarding this ongoing situation. We are unable to predict an outcome but want to make sure that our beneficiaries are aware that there is a risk that Ashford could lose approval for its online programs.  

Although the ongoing stay gives you additional time to use your benefits, please consider where you are in your educational pursuits and explore possible alternatives in case Ashford loses approval for GI Bill benefits. Unfortunately, VA does not have the legal authority to restore any GI Bill entitlement you have used to attend Ashford University should they lose approval for their online programs. Please take advantage of the resources below as you consider your options.

As always, our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/gibilleducation or follow us on Twitter @VAVetBenefits.

As always, I will continue to stay in touch and send updates as soon as they are available.

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on July 20, 2017

I am sending you this email because our records indicate you are a current or recent student attending Ashford University and receiving Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) GI Bill education benefits.  This contains important information concerning your use of GI Bill benefits at Ashford University.

As you know from our previous emails sent over the past year, Ashford University has been involved in an ongoing court case regarding its GI Bill approval with the Iowa State Approving Agency. A recent ruling from the Iowa District Court dismissed Ashford’s petition and affirmed the withdrawal of Ashford University’s online programs from GI Bill approval by the Iowa State Approving Agency. This means that classes offered by Ashford University can no longer be qualified for VA education benefits. This ruling will become final at the expiration of a 30-day appeal period which ends on August 16, 2017, unless Ashford University appeals the decision and the court delays implementation. 

What does this mean for your GI Bill benefits?

If you are enrolled in classes at Ashford you will continue to receive benefits through the end of any class beginning on or before August 16, 2017.  After that you will no longer receive GI Bill benefits, including the monthly housing allowance, for any classes at Ashford University unless Ashford University appeals and a court delays implementation of the current decision. Even if your enrollment for a class starting after August 16th was already submitted to VA, VA will not be able to pay for it. This includes payments under any GI Bill benefit program including the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.

VA does not have the legal authority to restore any GI Bill benefits you have used to attend Ashford University, even if you are not finished with your program. However, you are free to pursue your education goals at another approved school or training facility.

What resources are available to you today?

Our GI Bill Comparison Tool can help you review and compare alternatives to Ashford University if you wish to continue your education goals at another institution. If you do, remember that you must transfer to a school approved for the GI Bill to continue receiving VA education benefits, including the monthly housing allowance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. 

Here are a few more resources:

  • You may qualify for an emergency grant through the Veterans of Foreign Wars Unmet Needs program to assist with interim living expenses. VFW professional staff can also help answer education benefit questions through 1StudentVeteran@vfw.org.  
  • The American Legion has service officers in every state that can provide answers to questions about education benefits, federal student loans and credit transferability.
  • Student Veterans of America has a network of over 1,400 student chapters at colleges and universities and their staff can provide answers to your questions.
  • VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool can help you review and compare alternative schools.
  • In addition to the GI Bill Comparison Tool, you can also research schools on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard
  • For free legal advice and college choice counseling, visit Veterans Education Success website or email them directly, help@VeteransEducationSuccess.org.

What can I do if I have additional questions?

Our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about your GI Bill benefits and remaining entitlement. You can also join the conversation on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @VAVetBenefits. You can also write an email to Right Now Web

We understand that this is a difficult situation and have tried to keep you informed throughout this entire process. Please pass this email on to any Ashford student you may know in case we missed someone.  As always, thank you for your service.   

Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary of Economic Opportunity, email sent to students on August 4, 2017

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): You can continue to attend Ashford beyond August 16th.

I’m writing to share the latest information we have on Ashford University’s (Ashford) status as a school approved for GI Bill payments for its online programs.

Quick recap on the background: Based on changes to Ashford’s resident programs last year, Iowa’s SAA, the agency that previously approved Ashford online programs for VA benefits, found Ashford not in compliance with GI Bill approval criteria. This resulted in a court case in which the court, on July 17, 2017, dismissed Ashford’s petition to remain eligible for GI Bill participation.

What’s New?

On August 1, 2017, Ashford filed a motion for reconsideration of the July 17th ruling with the IA District Court.

What does this mean for you?

In my email to you July 20, 2017 I indicated that VA would not be able to pay benefits after Aug 16, 2017 unless Ashford took additional legal action. Ashford’s motion for reconsideration will delay the Aug 16th cutoff date. This means that if you are enrolled in classes at Ashford, you will continue to receive benefits for classes starting beyond Aug 16, 2017 while the Court considers Ashford’s motion. As further developments occur regarding this litigation, we will keep you updated.

I understand you may be frustrated with the back and forth of all of this. Our intent is to ensure you are informed as all of this proceeds. Your decision to continue at Ashford or to change schools is a personal one. We are committed to updating you on each development not to add to your frustration or angst, but to give you the latest information to make the decisions you need to make to pursue your educational goals.

Please take advantage of the resources you have available to make your best decision, including:

- Several of our Veterans Service Organization partners and Veteran community advocates can help with your decisions, answer questions, and have financial programs that can help; among them are Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Student Veterans of America, and Veterans Education Success.

- Our online GI Bill Comparison Tool can help you review and evaluate alternatives to Ashford and our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for questions about your benefits and remaining entitlement. You may also securely email questions here.

I will continue to stay in touch with any changes so you have the latest information on which to make your educational choices. Please feel free to send this to other Ashford students you may know in case we missed them.