Congress Approves Veterans Legislation Clarifying 85-15 Exemption
August 15, 2022

UPDATE: The House passed the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act Aug. 12, sending the bill to President Biden for his expected signature. We are looking forward to swift implementation by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


(Aug. 8, 2022)—The Senate has approved the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022 (S. 4458), an important piece of legislation that means veterans can continue to enroll in quality higher education programs of their choosing.

ACE and other higher education associations strongly supported this bipartisan legislation, co-authored by Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS), which clarifies the 35 percent exemption (which applies to institutions with a low percentage of enrolled veterans) to the 85-15 rule and restores it to its original intent.

The 85-15 rule provides important safeguards for veterans and their GI Bill benefits against waste, fraud, and abuse. At its core, the law seeks to ensure that at least 15 percent of students in any education program are not using GI Bill benefits to pay for the program. The rationale for the rule was that the enrollment of at least some non-veteran students provided important evidence of program value and quality because non-veterans are willing to pay out of their own pockets to attend.

Unfortunately, as part of its 85-15 policy reset, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has required institutions to "reapply" for their 35 percent exemption and to submit 85-15 ratios for every program, placing institutions in a Catch-22 where they are unable to receive the exemption without first computing the ratios.

This bill fixes that problem. The House is now poised to pass the bill and may do so when it returns briefly from its August recess to vote on the Senate-passed Inflation Reduction Act. The higher education community looks forward to swift implementation by VA in order to minimize any disruptions for student veterans this fall.