State agency says GI Bill can’t be used at local university

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) says students can’t use their GI Bill benefits at the Medical Careers Institute at ECPI University in Virginia Beach anymore.

DVS said the withdrawal of benefits has to do with the school’s policies. You can read the full news release here.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions,” an MCI nursing student told WAVY.com Wednesday. “We hadn’t heard anything from the school about any of this. As far as even there being an investigation, we didn’t know anything about it.”

The student asked that her name not be used for the story. She said she found out about the withdrawal of benefits on Tuesday as the news release from the Department of Veterans Services State Approving Agency was circulated among students.

DVS said in their statement ECPI’s Medical Careers Institute in Virginia Beach was suspended and an investigation began September 30. DVS reports MCI violated the Code of Federal Regulation, citing the following issues:

“The school changing policies and not adhering to the students’ contracts, the school withholding student transcripts against the published school policy, the school changing school policy without any reasonable notification to the students, and an overall lack of clarity and consistency in communicating school policies and changes.”

Since the initial complaint, DVS said there have been more complaints filed about the same issues at MCI’s Newport News campus. DVS has now suspended the Newport News campus, along with campuses in Richmond and North Chesterfield.

DVS said GI Bill benefits apply to veterans and their dependents. In the case of the student WAVY.com spoke to, she said her husband had transferred his benefits to her. Sources with knowledge of ECPI’s position have confirmed more than 200 students are impacted by the withdrawal of benefits.

“I was left wondering whether my school was going to be paid for, whether the class I started on Monday was going to be paid for,” explained the nursing student.

ECPI, which says it’s a career oriented student centered institution, promotes its work with veterans and service members on its website and in promotional videos. The Military Times recently ranked ECPI second in its list of best online and nontraditional schools for veterans.

ECPI released a statement saying the withdrawal of benefits is “unprecedented, arbitrary, and unsubstantiated by the facts.” It also said the action does not affect veterans enrolled in Virginia Beach ECPI University Colleges of Technology, Business, Criminal Justice, and Culinary Sciences.

Sources say the initial complaint was from a nursing student about the standards and what was necessary to pass a course. In the statement ECPI said, “The action initiated by DVS was the result of trying to force ECPI University to lower its educational standards.”

Read the full provided by ECPI:

Recent action by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) against ECPI University’s Medical Careers Institute in Virginia Beach is unprecedented, arbitrary, unsubstantiated by the facts and will have unintended consequences for Virginia veterans pursuing educational opportunities. ECPI University is seeking an immediate and full review, including potential legal action, to remedy this situation.

The action initiated by DVS was the result of trying to force ECPI University to lower its educational standards with the resulting action denying benefits earned by veterans who have served their country and Commonwealth with distinction. The action could result in severe disruption of the educational and career paths of many current veteran students.

For over 40 years ECPI has provided valuable and successful education to veterans. We have hundreds of veteran graduates from our Virginia Beach health science campus currently working in the healthcare profession. ECPI University will continue to support the veterans who have given so much to this nation and allow them to attend the college of their choosing. ECPI University’s goal is to help transition interested veterans to civilian life by providing in demand STEM and health care skills.

According to the DVS State Approving Agency, students will be able to transfer to approved programs in the area. Although, ECPI said veterans and their families who are enrolled will be able to continue their education through a Veterans Choice Scholarship they will provide.

The following petition for appeal has been filed on behalf of ECPI against the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

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