SAN ANTONIO — Thousands of student veterans attending Ashford University will temporarily avoid cuts to their GI Bill benefits, the school announced.

The Iowa Department of Education approved a 90-day delay of a decision to revoke the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for tuition, books and housing for more than 5,000 student veterans and military dependents attending Ashford, according to a recent Facebook post by the school.

Students attending the online, for-profit school were in jeopardy of losing access to their benefits by July 1. The issue stemmed from Iowa announcing the termination of GI Bill payouts after the school decided it would close their campus in that state and move their operations to California, where it would need approval from state officials there.

Iowa granted the delay of withdrawal through Sept. 18, or until California makes a decision on their certification, according to an email from the VA sent to Ashford students and obtained by Stars and Stripes. The California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education will determine whether the institution is qualified for approval by July 8, June Iljana of the California Department of Veterans Affairs wrote in an email.

Ava Red, 22, who studied psychology at Ashford on the GI Bill as a dependent, said the controversy made her doubt the reliability of Ashford to receive approval in California.

“Once I saw there was a problem, I decided I wasn’t going to waste my benefits,” Red said. “My admissions counselor didn’t mention my education would be in jeopardy when I applied in February. It’s either deceitful or ignorance. Either way it’s unacceptable when it comes to veterans education.”

Red withdrew from the university and is seeking alternative online programs. Admissions counselors at other schools described an uptick of students from Ashford seeking new programs in the past weeks, she said.

Red relied on roughly $600 a month for a housing allowance to carry her through the summer, but with many programs accepting students in the fall at the earliest, she is worried about missing out on nearly $2,000 income, she said.

In their latest update on June 21, Ashford sought to reassure students of their attention to the issue, saying the university is “committed to maintaining your benefits and we are proud of the education we’ve provided to thousands of veterans and their families.”

Ashford advised GI Bill recipients 10 days earlier to consider programs outside of their school as one course of action if benefits seemed unlikely to be restored, according to an email obtained by Stars and Stripes. VA officials could not immediately determine how many student veterans have left Ashford since the certification issue arose this month. A spokeswoman for Ashford did not respond to requests for comment.

The university has become a magnet of controversy in recent years. The school’s parent company, Bridgepoint, was subpoenaed by the California Attorney General’s Office in 2013 while the state investigated its financial aid and enrollment practices. The investigation is ongoing, according to a spokeswoman for the attorney general there.

Attorneys general in New York and North Carolina, along with the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, have launched similar probes to investigate possible violations of consumer protection laws at Bridgepoint, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

“My father served in the Air Force for 26 years. Our family has gone through too much for this to happen,” Red said. “After all he’s done for the country it was a given that I would receive an education. And now it’s becoming a hassle.” Twitter: @AlexHortonTX

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