American University is required to follow specific steps to ensure that programs are approved for VA Education Benefits processing.
Two major factors are impacting program approvals at this time:
1) All new programs must be approved for VA Education Benefits Processing. New regulations for the program approval process have delayed the approval of new programs in the 2021-2022 academic year and forward. We are continuing to work to have these new program/updates approved.
2) Updates to VA Education Benefits processing for Study Abroad has severely limited the number of programs in which students can use VA Education Benefits. (Please see Study Abroad Tab below for more information)
This page will serve as a resource for new and current students to determine if your anticipated program of study is approved for VA Education Benefits processing.
- Courses taken at another university through the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area including ROTC
- Global International Relations (BA)
- Teaching (MAT) [Urban Teachers]
- LLM Legislation (Washington College of Law)
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- Dual Degree programs with Wesley Theological Seminary
VA Changes Impacting Students Seeking to Study Abroad
The Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) has changed their requirements concerning when and how students may use their VA education benefits when attending classes outside the U.S. Specifically, guidance from the VA indicates that it will not disburse VA educational benefits to students taking part in Study Abroad opportunities categorized as “Exchange Student” Programs. Unfortunately, most of the educational opportunities AU currently provides in cooperation with schools outside the U.S. are set up as exchange student programs as defined by the VA. This means that, for the time being, students will have far more limited options when they seek to use their VA education benefits to pay for classes taken while studying outside the U.S.
Existing Options for Students Seeking to Use VA Education Benefits Options to Participate in Study Abroad Opportunities
- Instructor-Led Courses: In this scenario, a student travels to a foreign location with other class participants. Classes are led and taught by an AU instructor(s). Students may finish their courses at the foreign location, after returning to campus, and/or online.
Anticipated Outcome: Students receiving Chapter 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill® benefits are eligible to receive VA education benefits towards tuition and mandatory fees. The VA calculates monthly housing allowance payments based on the student’s main campus zip code (i.e., 20016). The credit hours from this type of Study Abroad experience can also apply to any other VA Education Chapter benefit types. (Chapter 35, Chapter 30, Chapter 1606).
Study Abroad Options Which Are NO LONGER Eligible for VA Education Benefits Processing
- Exchange Student Programs (**NOTE: These are the most common programs offered at AU!): Student attends a Study Abroad program hosted by a partner institution based on a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between AU and the partner institution. Students register for classes through AU and pay the AU tuition rate.
Anticipated Outcome: Students may not receive disbursements of VA Education Benefits for this type of program because the VA considers this an exchange student program. As of August 2020, students participating in such programs are not eligible to receive VA education benefits based on their enrollment and such programs no longer qualify for VA educational benefits. The reason the VA considers this an exchange student program is that it is set up for “direct reimbursement” between the participating schools. That is, the student pays tuition to AU, which then AU reimburses the foreign institution.
- Student Studies at a Foreign Extension Site (e.g., AU Abroad Centers): Student attends a Study Abroad Program at one of AU’s three AU Abroad Centers: Nairobi, Brussels, or Madrid.
Anticipated Outcome: VA education benefits cannot be used as these foreign extension sites have not yet been approved for VA Education benefits processing. This restriction on eligibility impacts all types of VA Education Benefit (i.e., Chapter 33, Chapter 30, Chapter 1606, Chapter 35).
- Student Has a Dual Enrollment at AU AND a Foreign Institution: Student takes part in a dual-degree program in which a degree is earned from both AU and a foreign university.
Anticipated Outcome: Currently, AU does not have any approved dual-degree programs by the VA that include both AU and a foreign university. To be eligible to have VA Education Benefits applied, both institutions must be eligible to process VA Education Benefits. To the extent AU engages with a foreign institution regarding a dual enrollment program it will explore options to obtain approval from the VA.
Please Note: Ritsumeikan University located in Japan has partnerships with AU for both the Bachelor of International Relations (Sakura Scholars) as well as varying Graduate Programs. RU is currently not eligible to process VA Education Benefits. Therefore, all programs that include a partnership with RU are not eligible to have VA Education Benefits applied.
We encourage you to reach out to the Veterans Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org before registering for Study Abroad to see if your VA Education Benefits can apply towards the tuition and fees costs.
AU Central can help if you have further questions. You can reach out to the Veterans Center via email at email@example.com or stop by in person anytime between 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday, in Asbury Building, Room 201.
Additional Background Information on Legislative Updates Changed the Eligibility of Students Studying Abroad to Receive VA Education Benefits
For those interested in more information about the current status, in 2019 the VA began making changes about how institutions (through their School Certifying Officials (“SCO”)) must submit enrollment information. The VA explained that it implemented these changes to ensure students received a Monthly Housing Allowance based on the exact location of their classes and not just the default location of the school’s main campus. At that time, AU believed such changes would have a negative impact on VA beneficiaries by limiting the majority of their educational options when studying abroad.
The VA did not initially offer clear guidance concerning how institutions should manage and report information about students seeking to participate in a study abroad program categorized as an Exchange Student program. Then, during an educational session provided by the VA in December 2019, the VA noted that students participating in study abroad programs categorized by the VA as “exchange student programs” would no longer be eligible to receive VA educational benefits for the periods of time they were completing coursework outside the U.S., effective August 1, 2020. The full impact of the changes made by the VA did not begin to surface until international travel became more feasible after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided. Subsequently, the VA issued a revised School Certifying Official Handbook which named scenarios in which VA education benefits could be used for study abroad programs. However, additional guidance linked to the SCO Handbook provided notice that the VA did not intend to process education benefits for study abroad categorized as exchange student programs.
The latest update from the VA is that legislation passed in December 2022 does allow an institution to process VA education benefits while it awaits a foreign partner institution’s receipt of approval to process VA education benefits from that foreign location. The VA has granted foreign institutions five (5) years to receive VA approval to process educational benefits. That said, based on our conversations with members of the VA’s national training team, the VA does not allow students participating in exchange student programs to receive VA education benefits to pay for their program(s). This legislation provides time for foreign institutions to become eligible to process VA Education benefits so students can directly enroll at the foreign institution and then transfer those credits back to their home institution.
Information Provided as of February 15, 2024
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