April 29, 2016
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) sent a letter Thursday to the Acting Under Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Danny Pummill, to request clarification as to why the Obama administration has revoked veterans’ eligibility for benefits when attaining postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) that involve an online or distance learning component.
After six years of these programs being supported under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, Oklahoma-area CTE centers were notified on Feb. 2 that funding for CTE accredited programs involving an online or distance learning component is “counter to federal law.” As a result, Oklahoma’s veterans are now being denied access to more than 200 programs that grant workforce certificates.
In the letter, the Members wrote, “We would like to know why these programs are ruled arbitrarily ineligible, despite the fact that the certificate programs including online education at these institutions are accredited. These programs are integral to the industry and workforce development needs of communities and states, as well as to the higher education systems in such states where non-degree-granting higher education institutions exist. Under the current rules, a student is able to use their veteran’s benefits for certificate programs with online learning components at a community college or degree-granting proprietary institution, but the exact same program offered in the same way at an area CTE center is now being deemed ineligible.
“We believe it is important for our veterans to have access to opportunities to economically empower themselves at the institution of their choosing, and that eligibility for benefits should be judged based on the merits of individual programs. Online education has the potential to ease the path to postsecondary credentials for many more adult students, such as returning veterans, and institutions seeking to implement such innovative strategies as blended learning should be applauded, not penalized.”