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Guide to Schools Seeking Approval to Offer Programs for Veterans Benefits

Purpose Of This Guide

Veterans in Connecticut receive nearly $4 million a year in federal dollars to help with educational costs. These benefits are awarded only if veterans attend approved postsecondary programs, schools or colleges. This guide summarizes - for school and college officials - the requirements for gaining approval for educational programs enrolling veterans. Approval ensures that these programs lead either to a formal degree or to a vocational or professional objective. Approval also allows the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to determine individual benefit amounts and length of assistance as well as to monitor a veteran’s academic progress and credits earned. In Connecticut, the Office of Higher Education serves as the State Approving Agency for veterans’ programs, as provided by Title 38 of the United States Code.

What types of programs/schools must be approved?

Any educational institution which enrolls, or is likely to enroll, veterans in postsecondary programs must be approved by the Connecticut Office of Higher Education. Examples are:

  • colleges and universities
  • private occupational schools
  • hairdressing and cosmetology schools
  • hospital training and residency programs
  • high school diploma, G.E.D. or post-diploma certificate programs
  • college entrance exam preparatory programs
  • organizations or agencies that provide licensing or certification tests

What needs to be approved?

  • Publications such as catalogs, student handbooks and class schedules.
  • Programs leading to an educational or immediate vocational goal such as a degree, certificate, postgraduate residency, or non-collegiate technical or trade program. (Programs offered at branch campuses or facilities other than main campuses are approved separately.)
  • Policies on attendance, academic progress, evaluation of credit for prior education and training, student conduct and specific types of instruction such as television courses, independent study, distance learning, practicums or internships, or other developmental programs.

Changes to any of these publications, programs or policies are to be reported to the Office of Higher Education. Failure to do so could result in immediate suspension of approval and the interruption of benefits to veterans.

How to apply for approval.

There are three types of approval: Initial, Re-Approval and Revised Approval.

Initial Approval

This is the first-time approval of a program, school or college.

For a school or college, initial approval involves the submission of a completed application to the Office of Higher Education followed by a site visit. For a new program at an already-approved institution, a letter will suffice and a site visit may be conducted.

Schools and colleges applying for the first time should submit a written request to the Office of Higher Education, asking for an application packet and indicating whether they:

  • are accredited by a regional or specialized accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for financial aid purposes. (Institutions unsure of their status may contact the Office of Higher Education.)
  • are licensed by an appropriate Connecticut state licensing body.
  • have been in continuous operation for at least two years (applies only to private schools offering non-college degree programs, new branch campuses, and contract courses).

Re-Approval

Periodically, the Office of Higher Education will update an institution’s approval. This re-approval is initiated by a letter from the Office of Higher Education asking for copies of a school’s publications and other information.

The timetable of these requests depends on the type of institution and the expiration date of its last approved catalog. Institutions are required, however, to notify the Office of Higher Education in a timely manner of any new catalog editions.

Revised Approval

Between re-approvals, specific changes, such as new programs, are treated as revisions to current approval.

To gain revised approval, a school must notify the Office of Higher Education in writing upon:

  • printing revised catalogs, handbooks or schedules. Two sets of each publication - certified by a school official that the information is “true in content and policy” - must be sent to the Office of Higher Education.
  • adding new programs.
  • changing a program’s name or curriculum. (For-profit schools must include changes to the length of their programs and number of clock hours.)
  • naming new Certifying Officials.
  • adding facilities or branch campuses, or changing an address.
  • changing ownership.
  • revisions in accreditation or state licensure status.
  • altering currently approved policies affecting standards of progress, attendance, student conduct, credit for previous learning and policies relating to practicums, independent study of cooperative education

What does approval cover?

Accredited institutions are approved in the areas listed below. Non-accredited institutions have additional requirements as also noted.

The Office of Higher Education will evaluate a school’s compliance in each of these areas, based on federal regulations, state statutes and current practices.

Approval Criteria

Non-Accredited Institutions

Accredited Institutions

Period of Operation CFR 21.4251 CFR 21.4251
Accreditation Status CFR 21.4254(a) CFR 21.4253
Quality, Content and Length CFR 21.4254(c)(1) CFR 21.4253
Qualifications of Personnel CFR 21.4254(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), (c)(12) CFR 21.4253
Adequacy of Facilities CFR 21.4254(b)(10), (c)(2) CFR 21.4253
Financial Soundness CFR 21.4254(c)(9)  
Advertising, Sales, Enrollment Practices CFR 21.4252(h), CFR 21.4254(c)(10) CFR 21.4252(h)
Enrollment Policy CFR 21.4254(b)(4) CFR 21.4253(e)(2)
School Calendar CFR 21.4254(b)(3), (c)(1)  
Fee Schedule CFR 21.4254(b)(8)  
Refund Policy CFR 21, 4254(c)(13), (b)(9), CFR 21.4255  
Attendance Policy CFR 21.4254(b)(5) CFR 21.4253(d)(2)
Progress Standards CFR 21.4254(b)(6), (c)(7) CFR 21.4253(d)(1), (d)(2), (s)(4)
Conduct Policy CFR 21.4254(b)(7), (c)(7) CFR 21.4253(d)(1)(i), (d)(4)
Credit for Previous Education CFR 21.4254(b)(12), (c)(4) CFR 21.4253(d)(3)
Programs Precluded CFR 21.4252,  CFR 21.4265(a) CFR 21.4252
Enrollment Limitations CFR 21.4201,  CFR 21.4254(c)(11) CFR 21.4201
Programs at a Branch or Extension CFR 21.4266 CFR 21.4266
Program Outlines CFR 21.4254(c)(5), (b)(11)  
Resident Instruction CFR 21.4200(o)(i), (g), (r); 21.4280(f) CFR 21.4200(o)(i), (g), (r); 21.4280(f)
Cooperative Training CFR 21.4233(a) CFR 21.4233(a)
Correspondence CFR 21.4200(o)(iii),  CFR 21.4256 CFR 21.4200(o)(iii),  CFR 21.4256
Independent Study CFR 21.4280(c) CFR 21.4280(c)
Practical Training CFR 21.4265 CFR 21.4265
Combinations of Instruction CFR 21.4233,  CFR 21.4273(c),  CFR 21.4279 CFR 21.4233,  CFR 21.4273(c),  CFR 21.4279

Courtesy of The National Training Curriculum for State Approving Agencies, National Association of State Approving Agencies. CFR stands for the Code of Federal Regulations.

What is the role of the certifying official?

The Certifying Official, named by a school or college, acts as that institution’s liaison with the Office of Higher Education. This person informs the Office of Higher Education of any changes requiring approval and sends certified copies of the school’s publications to the Office of Higher Education. During site and supervisory visits, the Certifying Official meets with Office of Higher Education staff to provide necessary files and information. This is in addition to VA Enrollment Certification responsibilities.

What are supervisory visits?

Unlike site visits which occur at the time of initial approval, supervisory visits are conducted annually by the Office of Higher Education to review an institution’s compliance with veterans’ approval requirements. For a supervisory visit, schools should have available files covering each veteran and all information showing attendance, transfer credit, student transcripts and enrollment status. In addition, the Office of Higher Education may request meetings with other staff, faculty and students.

What are the conditions for continued approval?

To maintain approval, both accredited and non-accredited schools and colleges must meet the following conditions:

  1. The catalog, bulletin or addendum must include an institution’s:
  1. Standards of progress (which define the grading system, minimum grades considered satisfactory, conditions for interruption for unsatisfactory grades or progress, description of probationary periods and conditions for dismissal and readmittance.
  2. Attendance Policy.
  3. Conduct policy.
  4. Progress records furnished to students.
  1. The school must maintain:
  1. A written record of a veteran’s previous education and training clearly indicating that appropriate credit for prior learning has been given and training shortened proportionately.
  2. Cumulative individual records containing the results of each enrollment period, including all courses and grades.
  3. Adequate records showing the progress of each veteran, including notices of course withdrawals and last dates of attendance.
  4. Attendance records of veterans enrolled in courses not leading to standard college degrees.
  5. Evidence that tuition and fees charged to and received from veterans are the same as those for other students.
  6. Complete records and copies of all advertising, sales and enrollment materials used by or on behalf of the school for the preceding 12 months.
  7. Veteran certification files for three years after the veteran leaves the institution.
  1. The school agrees to:
  1. Enforce all policies.
  2. Notify the Department of Veterans Affairs when veterans do not achieve satisfactory academic progress.
  3. Notify the Department of Veterans Affairs within 30 days of all changes in hours of credit or attendance, including interruption or termination.
  4. Notify the Office of Higher Education of any changes affecting approved programs, including changes to location, course offerings, degree requirements and academic regulations.
  5. Make available during regular business hours all required records outline above to representatives of the Office of Higher Education and veterans’ officials during periodic on-site visits.

In addition to the above, the following conditions regarding refunds and evaluations apply to all non-accredited schools:

Evaluations

Evaluations of the following must occur: the quality, content and length of programs; personnel qualifications; adequacy of resources and financial soundness; school calendars and fee schedules.

Refunds

A pro rata refund policy must be in place which assures that the amount charged for tuition, fees and other charges for a portion of a course does not exceed the approximate pro rata portion of the total charges for tuition, fees and other charges that the length of the completed portion of the course bears to the total length; and

  1. Registration fees cannot exceed $10 or they become subject to the pro rata refund policy.
  2. Breakage fees cover only the exact amount of the breakage, with the remainder to be refunded.
  3. Only the exact amount of charges for consumable supplies may be retained, with the remainder refunded.
  4. Refunds for books, supplies and equipment furnished by the school will be made in full for the amount charged for un-issued books, supplies and equipment. Issued items may be disposed of at a veteran’s discretion.
  5. Refund policies more favorable to veterans than pro rata refunds are acceptable; otherwise, schools may charge a sum not greater than 10% from the exact pro rata portion of such tuition, fees and other charges that the length of the completed portion of the course bears to its total length; the exact pro ratio will be determined on the ratio of the number of instructional days in the course.

Who to contact:

For questions on program or institutional approval:

Office of Higher Education
(State Approving Agency)
61 Woodland Street
Hartford, CT 06105-2326

(860) 947-1816 phone
(860) 947-1310 fax
Michael Criscuolo

veterans@ctohe.org

For questions on federal veterans education benefits:

Veterans should contact:

Hartford Area Regional Office
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
555 Willard Avenue (P.O. Box 310909)
Newington, CT 06131
1-800-827-1000 (toll-free in CT) or 888-442-4551 (National Case Center)

School and college officials should call:

VA Educational Liaison Representative: Gerard Jacques 860-666-7324


Glossary of Common Terms

Accreditation
Status achieved after an educational program or institution voluntarily and successfully evaluates itself in relation to standards and goals established by an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Approval Criteria
Federal or state standards used by State Approving Agencies to evaluate programs and institutions.
Branch
An auxiliary location of a school or college.
Certifying Official
A representative of an educational institution authorized to sign and submit documents verifying a veteran’s enrollment, change in status, receipt of advance payment and any other circumstances affecting the amount or duration of educational benefits.
Cfr
Code of Federal Regulations: interpretations of the United States Code compiled by federal agencies.
Clock Hour
A unit of measurement used to recognize a student’s completion of a particular course, number of job hours or achievement of specific skills.
Credit For Previous Education, Experience And Training
Acknowledgment by an educational institution of the education experience and training received by a veteran before entering an instructional program; usually leads to a reduction in the veteran’s total program requirement.
Credit Hour
A unit of measurement used to recognize a student’s completion of a particular course, based usually on a semester or quarter-term system.
DVA
Department of Veterans Affairs.
DVACO
Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office which receives and evaluates veterans’ applications for educational benefits, determines the amount and duration of benefits, and processes program evaluation information from State Approving Agencies.
Educational Assistance Allowance
Benefits paid to veterans in the form of monthly monetary assistance while veterans are enrolled in approved instructional programs.
Educational Institution
Any public or independent secondary school, vocational school, correspondence school, business school, two-year or four-year college, university, professional school, scientific or technical institution or other institution offering instruction to adults.
Educational Objective
Goal of an instructional program such as an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a certificate or a diploma.
ELR
Educational Liaison Representative employed at regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This person is responsible for processing information from State Approving Agencies and for transferring that information to DVA forms, working with educational officials regarding veterans’ certification, and evaluating institutions for compliance with veterans’ certification requirements.
G.E.D.
General Educational Development: an achievement test leading to a certificate deemed equivalent to a high school diploma.
GI Bill
Federal legislation enacted following World War II providing comprehensive educational and readjustment benefits to veterans.
IHL
Institution of Higher Learning: a college, university, technical or business school or similar institution offering postsecondary instruction leading to an associate or higher degree; also can refer to a hospital offering postsecondary programs whether or not the hospital grants degrees.
Independent Study
Instructional method requiring interaction between students and faculty but not involving regularly scheduled class sessions.
Matriculation
Acceptance into an institution’s approved program as a student or as a degree candidate.
NCD
Non-College Degree Program: an instructional program offering courses leading to technical, business, professional or vocational diplomas or certificates.
Non-Accredited Program
A program that has not been evaluated by a nationally-approved accrediting agency, or one that has not met accreditation standards.
Period of Operation
The length of time a program has been open for enrollment and has enrolled students.
Practical Training
Field or laboratory experience allowing students to apply studied theory.
Professional
Goal of an instructional program such as licensing as an engineer, or board certification as a neurosurgeon.
Program Approval
An evaluation by a State Approving Agency of Instructional programs available to veterans leading to recognition of the program’s compliance with applicable federal and state requirements.
Program of Education
the combination of subjects, unit courses, or training activities needed to meet requirements for a pre-determined educational, professional or vocational objective.
Pro Rata Refund
Return of a student’s tuition and fees based on the ration of remaining days of instruction to total days of instruction in a term.
SAA
State Approving Agency: that agency which evaluates instructional programs as required by federal laws administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Similar in Character
Refers to two or more programs at a school having the same general educational objective and which use the same or related instructional processes, tools and materials.
Two-Year Rule
Federal regulations requiring that an approved private non-degree program provider be in operation for a least two years.
USC
United States Code: organized compilation of federal laws.
Veteran
A person who has served in the United States Armed Forces or any other person eligible to receive veterans’ education benefits such as active duty military personnel, reservists, guardsmen, spouses, widows and dependents.
Veterans Education Benefits
Compensation for service in the Armed Forces paid in the form of educational assistance.
Vocational Objective
Goal of an instructional program culminating in an occupational skill needed for entry-level employment.

 

61 Woodland Street, Hartford, CT  06105-2326, Phone:  860-947-1800

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