Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New GI BIll to Punish Distance Students

As best as I can tell, students using the new GI Bill to take online courses or other types of distance education offerings will be getting the short straw as far as benefits go. Apparently, if a student on the GI Bill is taking online courses, (s)he will not quality for the housing stipend that other "traditional" students would get:

Monthly Housing Stipend

If you are enrolled in a traditional college program as a half-time to full-time student, you will be paid a monthly housing stipend equal to the monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. The average housing stipend will be approximately $1,100 a month. However, if you attend distance learning programs such as correspondence courses and online you will not qualify for this stipend.

This language can be found here.

This is clearly a bad thing, but not nearly as bad as what we first heard at the ITC Board meeting last week in DC. The rumor then was that the GI Bill couldn't be used AT ALL for online courses and programs. Apparently, that was a rumor that went a bit further than reality. The reality appears to be that the housing benefits are affected, but not online learning on the whole.

Okay, so now that we see what they have done, let's see if we can figure out why they have done this. Nope. Can't do it. I don't see any sense in this at all. Apparently, online students are supposed to live in virtual houses. No housing benefits if you take online courses. Do they realize that most online students are taking their courses from their houses? How does that make any sense?

If you leave your home and drive to school, we will help you pay your housing costs. If you stay at home while going to school, we won't help you pay your housing costs. Someone please call the Stupid Police. 

Lastly, how exactly is this to be applied? If a student takes one online course with the rest of the courses on campus (a very normal case), would they lose their housing stipend? What about the opposite? Does one on-ground course mean that you qualify for the stipend while taking everything else online. What about the student who takes the first semester in the "traditional" classroom and then starts taking online courses? Is there someone who is going to be standing guard to take away the housing stipend? Sort of makes your head spin, doesn't it?

GI Joe photo (Flickr CC) by CG76

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