Columbia College allows veterans to defer tuition costs following government shutdown

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | 7:57 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When the government shutdown began Oct. 1 and military tuition assistance was suspended, Columbia College gave affected military service members options to defer tuition costs. Now, those options have been extended to veterans.

"It's the right thing to do," said Mike Lederle, assistant dean for military and federal programs. 

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Lederle said Columbia College felt it should assist active servicemembers and veterans by doing everything possible to allow them to continue their education. 

The deferred tuition options apply to the upcoming term, which lasts from Oct. 21 to Dec. 14. 

The two options to defer tuition costs are:

  • withdrawing from classes without financial or academic liability 
  • enrolling in an extended six-month payment plan

Both options come with requirements and deadlines.

If a student chooses to withdraw from classes, he or she must do so by Nov. 29. If a student elects to enroll in the payment plan, the first payment is due Nov. 22.

The students also must prove eligibility for military benefits and have applied for or have a current file with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

However, students can't use the deferral option to withdraw from a class because of a failing grade. Students who want to withdraw without financial or academic liability must be passing with a grade of C or better, Lederle said.

Columbia College chose to extend the options to veterans after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned Congress that if the shutdown continues into November the VA will run out of funds and stop sending checks. 

If that happens, veteran students at Columbia College could stop receiving their benefits, just as military service members have already stopped receiving their military tuition assistance. 

In the 2012-13 school year, more than 3,500 students used VA benefits, Lederle said.  

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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