Veteran students could be denied coronavirus aid

Recent lawsuits have spotlighted the situation of illegal immigrant students, but not of veterans

Veterans may not receive the relief provided by the CARES Act as a consequence of restrictions imposed by the US Department of Education that determine Title IV eligibility.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized billions in emergency aid to support college students, but some students are likely to miss out on the federal assistance. Regulations imposed by the U.S. Department of Education surrounding the distribution of federal aid to college students may prevent student veterans from accessing financial relief. 

On April 21, the Department of Education updated its guidelines for aid distributions to require a FAFSA on file for students in order to determine their Title IV eligibility and consequently, their eligibility to receive aid under the CARES Act. Such a system ensures that federal assistance goes to deserving recipients. 

[RELATED: Leftist groups outraged that coronavirus aid is not going to illegal immigrants]

However, many veterans do not file a FAFSA. Veterans Education Success cites data to support a case that “undergraduate student veterans are less likely than non-veterans to file a FAFSA.” Additionally, it explores statistics which indicate that a critical number of veterans may be ineligible for the benefits of the CARES Act: “Almost half of undergraduate veterans at 2-year public colleges did not file a FAFSA, compared to 35 percent at 4-year nonprofit schools, 33 percent at 4-year public institution, and only 21 percent at 2- and 4-year for-profit schools.”

Thanks to the GI Bill, veterans receive free tuition at public universities, which supplies the most likely explanation as to why so many do not file a FAFSA. But campus-based student veterans can still suffer consequences of the coronavirus, as Veterans Education Success points out, and the requirement of filing a FAFSA interferes with their ability to receive needed aid. Examples of coronavirus-caused costs include paying for a new place to live, food, utilities, and getting a computer, Tanya Ang, Vice President of Veterans Education Success told Campus Reform

This situation came to the attention of Veterans Education Success, Ang said, through universities: “They were concerned about having to make student veterans go through the process of filling out a FAFSA form and getting the necessary approval in order for them to be able to be eligible for the emergency funding for students in the CARES Act.” 

It is worth noting that veterans are not the only group who may fail to receive assistance under these restrictions. 

[RELATED: WSU provides ‘emergency’ funding to illegal immigrant students in response to bailout exclusion]

Like many veterans under the current regulations, illegal immigrants and DACA recipients do not meet requirements for CARES Act relief. 

But in the last week, lawsuits issued by the California Community Colleges and the Washington Attorney General have both addressed the CARES Act’s exclusion of illegal immigrant students. Meanwhile, the needs of veterans as a uniquely impacted population received only a brief mention in the California press release and none at all in the WAG lawsuit. Effectively, both California and Washington decided to fight the Department of Education over the rights of non-citizens and illegal students -- rather than those of U.S. veterans. 

In contrast, Veterans Education Success has chosen to counter the restrictions not by joining others in suing Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, but instead by reaching out to her with the request that the department reinstate the original guidelines or adjust them to make the aid automatically available to veterans and to other students with military connections. 

“Our primary focus is on supporting those we serve and making sure they have access to the CARES Act emergency aid funding,” Ang said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mariatcopeland