Thousands of student veterans affected by faculty strikes in Pennsylvania
October 21, 2016
WASHINGTON – About 3,500 student veterans at 14 state-run colleges in Pennsylvania are at risk of losing their monthly housing allowances if an ongoing faculty strike extends beyond the next few weeks.
Professors and other faculty at the schools entered their third day of a work strike Friday, disrupting classes for roughly 100,000 students.
The Department of Veterans Affairs notified student veterans at the 14 colleges Wednesday that tuition payments would not be affected, but there’s a time limit on how long those veterans will continue to receive housing allowances. If the strike were to go beyond 28 days, the VA would stop issuing the housing stipend.
There are 3,454 students who receive GI Bill benefits at the 14 colleges, according to a VA database. Monthly housing allowances range between $1,000 and $2,000 per veteran.
The VA deems a faculty strike as a school closure due to an emergency situation. The laws governing the Post-9/11 GI Bill state benefits can be paid during emergency situations for up to four weeks, or 28 days, VA spokesman Meagan Heup wrote in an email.
Thousands of professors and other faculty unionized through the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties went on strike early Wednesday morning, when contract negotiations with the state were stalled.
The state had instructed students to continue to attend classes, though many of them have been canceled, according to reports.
The strike affects Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities of Pennsylvania. Faculty at Penn State, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University are not affected.
Before union members hit the picket lines, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf had issued a statement Tuesday night, urging both sides to come up with an agreement and avoid a strike.
“Most seriously, a strike could drive a loss of students, which would further exacerbate an already precarious financial situation for the state system,” the statement reads.
Student Veterans of America is monitoring the situation, said Chance Browning, the organization’s communications director. SVA stepped in to guide veterans last month, when ITT Technical Institute announced it was closing all of its approximately 130 campuses. The closure forced thousands of student veterans to make quick decisions about where to transfer to finish their degrees.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education said it didn’t formally negotiate with the union Thursday, The Associated Press reported. The faculty union said Thursday that it would announce when a negotiation meeting is scheduled. One had not been announced as of midday Friday.
In its statement about the strike, the VA said veterans at the affected schools should continue to verify their attendance as usual at gibill.va.gov/wave.
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