Many students veterans may not be eligible to receive federal COVID-19 emergency grants because of Department of Education guidance that restricts these cash grants to students who have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, said Veterans Education Success, an advocacy group.
“If ED [Department of Education] maintains its April 21 guidance restricting the aid to students eligible for Title IV, and if institutions interpret this to exclude students who have not filed a FAFSA, many student veterans will be left out,” said the group about the aid made available through the CARES Act.
In fact, California Community Colleges last week sued the education department for leaving out student veterans as well as undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students from federal COVID-19 emergency aid.
The veterans advocacy group cited education department data that shows undergraduate student veterans are less likely than non-veterans to file a FAFSA. In the academic year 2015-16, 36% of undergraduate student veterans did not file a FAFSA, compared to 29% of non-veterans.
“The generosity of the Post-9/11 GI Bill likely contributes to this disparity; however, the generosity of the GI Bill does not mean that campus-based student veterans were not affected by the disruptions caused by coronavirus, which is the stated reason for the grants,” said the advocacy group.
The group also cited its January 2019 report on veteran student loan debt, which found that a higher proportion of undergraduate veterans at for-profit schools had federal student loan debt compared to other institutional sectors.
California Community Colleges said in its lawsuit that eligibility requirements for emergency grants to students under the CARES Act are unlawful and unconstitutional.
“The Department of Education ignored the intent of the CARES Act to give local colleges discretion to aid students most affected by the pandemic, and instead has arbitrarily excluded as many as 800,000 community college students,” said California Community Colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley in a statement. Among those harmed are veterans, citizens who have not completed a federal financial aid application, and non-citizens, including those with DACA status.”