Empowering Yesterday’s Warriors

With more than 1,500 on-campus chapters, Student Veterans of America (SVA) is committed to the empowerment of yesterday’s warriors. Through a supportive network of chapter leaders, SVA works to transform the skills and experience of student veterans to ensure they achieve their greatest potential. The organization took important steps to advance its policy priorities in 2019 that included major progress toward addressing the impact that natural disasters have on military-connected students, modernizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Work-Study Program, bringing parity to in-state tuition benefits, sunsetting the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and finally closing the 90-10 loophole.

On natural disasters, SVA championed efforts to extend the time that students using VA education benefits can receive housing allowances during temporary school closures caused by natural disasters from four weeks to eight. SVA pushed to modernize the VA Work-Study Program by working to pass a bipartisan bill that would change the program payment process to mirror that of the largely effective Federal Work-Study Program administered by the Department of Education. The organization addressed inequities in a federal in-state tuition benefit by advocating for a bipartisan legislative fix that would allow all military-connected students to access the same resident-rate tuition benefits regardless of when and where they choose to attend school. The organization also sought to end the MGIB tax on troops by helping pass a bill in the House that increases the time service members have to opt out of the benefit and that would eventually sunset the program.

SVA’s most significant policy accomplishment of 2019 was the introduction of a bipartisan bill to close the 90-10 loophole. In concert with partner organizations and committed congressional staff, the Senate introduced the first-ever bipartisan 90-10 bill in the Senate. The 90-10 Rule exists to ensure that proprietary schools offer quality educational experiences by requiring them to obtain at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than federal sources. Unfortunately, the rule omits two important sources of federal education assistance – VA and Department of Defense (DoD) education benefits, despite both being wholly taxpayer dollars. This loophole encourages some bad-actor, low-quality proprietary schools to aggressively and deceptively recruit military-connected students to boost their profits.

The bipartisan Protect VETS Act would close this loophole by including VA and DoD education benefits on the 90 percent side of the equation. Under the proposal, proprietary schools would have three years to comply but would begin reporting updated 90-10 data to Congress in the first year. The legislation would also create a new system of tiered penalties, while providing schools with a fair process to appeal those penalties if they are serving their students well. In addition, VA would be required to keep students informed of potential problem schools by adding a caution flag to the GI Bill Comparison Tool next to any institution that violates the rule. Finally, the new rule would require schools to comply with the 90-10 standard for two years after converting to a non-profit institution in order to discourage conversions undertaken solely to avoid this regulation. SVA is grateful for the work of Senators Carper, Cassidy, Lankford, and Tester to craft the bipartisan 90-10 bill and for Senator Lamar Alexander’s outspoken support of the legislation. 

As SVA begins the new year, it will continue to shape its policy work to meet the needs of the roughly 750,000 student veterans the organization serves. SVA looks forward to continuing to provide our nation’s student veterans, service members, family members, survivors, and allies with the resources, network support, and advocacy they need to succeed in higher education and beyond.