Three private universities, whose students include hundreds of military veterans, unexpectedly in jeopardy of losing approval for critical GI Bill funding are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
In June, the state agency that approves the funding, California State Approving Agency For Veterans Education (CSAAVE), sent the schools a notice of suspension letter.
The letter was sent to three schools: Park University, which currently has 319 students enrolled on its Camp Pendleton Campus, Webster University, and Columbia College which has a campus at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego.
An administrator for Park University said she was stunned to receive the letter, which suggested the school failed to meet approval requirements. The letter, however, did not specify the failures.
“We were puzzled. We didn't have a clear understanding as to why the funding was revoked. Why we were suspended in the first place and threatened for disapproval, because we felt that we were in compliance with all the regulations,” Kena Wolf, Associate Vice President for Campus Center Operations at Park University said.
The funding is critical for eligible students. Park officials says about two-thirds of their students receive GI Bill funding.
Vivian Zorich, a 25-year-old mother and Marine veteran, says she received $32,000 in GI Bill funding last year.
“I was actually pretty scared, the fact that I was still in California and it wasn't going to be affordable to go to school at all,” said Zorich, who on Friday graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Resources Management from Park University.
After receiving the notice of suspension in June, the three schools filed a lawsuit against CSAAVE, arguing the agency does not have discretion to disapprove qualifying institutions for benefits under the GI Bill.
Attorneys for the schools say they’ve been approved for decades.
In August, attorneys won a temporary restraining order to continue funding pending the lawsuit.
But then Thursday night, the schools received another letter from CSAAVE, reinstated the funding.
Immediate emails requesting specific details about its decisions have been unanswered by CSAAVE.
Attorneys and officials with the schools were at a loss to explain the sudden change, but said the Department of Veterans of Affairs intervened, re-affirming the schools’ good standing.
“We were confident all along that we did meet compliance regulations and we were in compliance fully with the state approving agencies' regulations, the VA regulations, we felt that we were in the right,” Wolf said.