VA Student Financial Aid:

Potential Effect of Providing Education Tax Benefit Eligibility to Students Receiving VA Assistance

HEHS-00-40R: Published: Jan 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the eligibility for education tax benefits for students receiving financial assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), focusing on: (1) the major differences between VA's process of approving courses of study and the Department of Education's process of certifying schools; and (2) the number of VA students and schools that could be affected by expanding eligibility for educational tax benefits to include schools that Education does not now certify.

GAO noted that: (1) the main difference between the processes VA and Education use to determine whether schools can participate in their student financial assistance programs is that Education cannot certify a school unless it has been accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, whereas VA can approve individual courses of study at schools whether or not the schools have been accredited; (2) for the three states GAO reviewed, 344 (2.3 percent) of the 14,982 students receiving VA assistance attended 83 schools that Education had not certified and were therefore not eligible to participate in education tax benefit programs; (3) if eligibility were extended to these uncertified schools, 65 of the 344 students could potentially qualify for education tax benefits; and (4) these 65 students, enrolled in 11 schools, were potentially eligible for tax benefits because GAO estimated that their tuition and fees exceeded their VA education assistance.

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