UTEP’S Military Students’ Financial Aid Delayed

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It is Caleb Jackson’s first semester at the University of Texas at El Paso as a military-affiliated student studying business after leaving the military just two months ago and he, along with other military-affiliated students, are faced with delays in their financial aid.

The University of Texas at El Paso’s Military Student Success Center (MSSC), responsible for assisting military-affiliated students at the university with navigating financial, educational benefits, announced that there will be a delay in the processing of certifications for the Spring semester in an email, Jan. 18.

The MSSC cited a “high staff turnover” and a lack of School Certifying officials as the main cause of the delay.

The certification process is a necessary step for all military-affiliated UTEP students who use tuition assistance such as VA-issued benefits and the Hazlewood Act. Certification requests involve submitting a form application through the MSSC’s website and providing personal information, enrollment information, a letter of eligibility and a degree evaluation. When military-affiliated students receive their benefits, it is typically in two parts: a tuition stipend and books and housing stipend.

Jackson has not yet received his books and housing stipend but received his tuition assistance within the first month of the Spring semester. He said in the military, he had grown used to delay.

“When it comes to giving money… they’re probably going to take a while,” Jackson said.

MSSC advisors did not respond to questions about clarifying the certification process or to the exact number of students left to be certified but stated that students were still submitting their applications and that there is not a deadline to submit their information.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 2, in two emails, the MSSC announced that all CH.30, 35, and 1606 benefit users will be required to enroll in a military students payment plan and shared two broken links to Pete’s Payment Options in both emails.

Through Pete’s Payment Options, which can be accessed through GoldMine, students can register for the payment plan in order to defer payment of tuition and fees under Texas Education Code 56.0065.

The Texas Education Code 56.0065 law code states that higher education institutions may not impose “additional fees, obligations, or burdens concerning payment or registration…that are not otherwise required by those programs to be imposed for the purpose of receiving that assistance.”

In the Jan. 18  email, sent out by the MSSC’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Gary Edens, it was stated that the MSSC staff would be working overtime and on weekends to process student certifications and ensured that students who have been identified as “benefits-eligible” would not be dropped from their classes or incur any late fees.

By Brandy Ruiz