Inside Higher Education: Disincentive for Distance Learning

Inside Higher Ed recently spoke with IAVA's Chief Legislative Counsel Patrick Campbell about some of the Post- 9/11 GI Bill's discincentives - including lack of a housing stipend- for online learners.  Click here to read about IAVA's efforts to push the VA and Congress to amend these disincentives.

“When the legislation was being put together, the question was, ‘How do you determine what the appropriate living allowance would be?’ If you place the living allowance based on the residence of the veteran, that means that the VA would have to verify 500,000 addresses,” says Patrick Campbell, chief legislative counsel for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (A legislative staffer speaking on background of the decision-making process also cites the question of how to define the housing allowance as a crucial consideration, as well as concerns about possible abuses.)

“The reason why there was any distinction between distance learning and non-distance learning in the beginning was because there was an administrative issue of, ‘How do you identify the residence of the veteran?’ ” Campbell continues. “That said, what it became was what I believe was an erroneous belief that people enrolled in distance learning already have full-time jobs…. It was a belief that these students are working anyway, so therefore they don’t deserve the housing allowance.”

Says Campbell, who would like to see the housing allowance extended to all-distance learners, “I’ve never heard this said, but I think ... underlying all this ... is ... a belief that if someone’s full-time distance learning, they’re not working as hard as in brick and mortar. If you believe someone can be working full time and going to school full time, underlying that belief is distance learning isn’t as hard and therefore we don’t need to give them as much money.”