New Flexibility to Use College Military Benefits

by Ashley Eneriz

This spring brought a rapid transition from in-person to remote instruction at many universities. The change led to a number of related developments—and a bit of a silver lining for military-connected students.

Typically, veterans and military-connected students who enroll in online courses are awarded fewer college military benefits than if they attended classes on campus, but a new bill allows flexibility for students who qualify for the GI Bill®. This can open new doors for many who are seeking college degrees.

“The U.S. Senate Bill 3503 has extended full housing compensation through December 21, 2020, for classes intended to be taken in-person but now offered online,” said Tony Ball, M.A., U.S. Army (Ret.), associate director of Military and Veteran Outreach at Azusa Pacific University. “For those military-connected individuals who have earned the GI Bill, this may be a great time to take advantage of the benefits and potentially qualify for the Yellow Ribbon assistance program while receiving a housing allowance stipend.”

New Changes to GI Benefits for 2020

Military-connected students don’t have to worry about the implications of taking online courses that were meant to be in-person during the COVID-19 crisis. Vannessa Weber, MBA, M.S., assistant director of Military and Veteran Education Benefits at APU, said that the new bill enables Post-9/11 GI Bill students to keep receiving the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for resident training rather than the lower online training BAH rate through December 21, 2020.

However, in order to capitalize on the opportunity, military members must enroll in classes that were switched to an online format due to the coronavirus. Students who choose classes that were planned to be taught online before the coronavirus-related changes will only receive the online BAH rate.

Picking the Right Classes for Full College Military Benefits

The Military and Veteran Education Benefits and registrar offices at APU are working together to enable military-connected students to register for the right classes without affecting their funding. Changes have been rolled out on the university’s enrollment site that make it easier for students to weigh their options.

“When students register for classes, they are able to see the original location of each class despite classes being moved to an online modality,” Weber said. “When students enter the registration portal, they will see both an ‘Instruction Mode’ and a ‘Location’ for each class.”

Weber encourages students to look for classes that have a location set at a physical campus, such as in Azusa or San Diego. These classes will be verified as in-person to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

How Can Military-Connected Students Benefit from This Change?

This special circumstance can be used by any military-connected student under the GI Bill to further their degree with more flexibility. Depending on the student’s time commitments outside of school, they might be able to take more online courses in a semester because many of the classes will have an element of flexibility to them.

Similarly, students will have more course options available to them because location is no longer a factor. Individuals can choose to take classes online that were meant to be conducted in-person (at any APU campus location) and don’t have to worry about managing the commute.

Keep in mind, your residential BAH rate is based on the location where you take the majority of your classes, so you’ll still want to mostly select classes that would be held in-person at the campus you’re accustomed to attending. Now, though, you have that added flexibility to consider classes being taught remotely from other locations.

If you need help understanding the VA guidelines on BAH, contact a military and veteran representative at APU who can provide personalized benefits guidance for your situation.

Navigating school during this time can feel daunting, but if you’re a military-connected student, rest assured that you have the support of APU’s military and veteran services and benefits offices to help you reach your degree goals.

Hoping to find out more about the GI Bill and learn if you qualify for Yellow Ribbon college military benefits at Azusa Pacific University? Explore the school’s website to read up on its military education opportunities.