Washington — A month after the president signed into law a bill that sharply expanded veterans’ tuition benefits, Congress has passed another measure with education benefits for student veterans and their families.
The bill, which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the major law governing federal student aid, awaits the president’s signature to become law. Among the new benefits it contains are provisions that would make it easier for veterans to re-enroll in college upon returning from active duty, and ease the process of applying for a discharge of a federal student loan in cases of “total and permanent disability.”
Under the bill, colleges would be required to readmit veterans at the same academic status in which they left, provided veterans give advance notice of their deployments and are not absent from the institution for more than five years, cumulatively. (Students who failed to provide advance notice could re-enroll after providing proof of service).
It would also allow disabled veterans who receive a permanent total disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs to have their loans discharged by the Department of Education without filing additional documentation. Under current law, veterans have to go through a second process to prove that they are “totally and permanently” disabled before they can have a loan discharged.
On top of the tuition benefits in the new GI bill passed earlier this summer, the higher-education legislation adds another break: It would prohibit a state college from charging active-duty service members stationed in that state and their dependents more than the in-state tuition rate, even if the service member is later transferred to a station outside the state. The bill would also create a grant program to encourage “model programs to support veteran student success in postsecondary education.” —Kelly Field