With colleges shutting classes on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, students’ only choice to continue classes is to move online … at least in the near-term. But there are some differences between attending classes online or on-campus. In the interim, here are some differences former on-campus students should be aware of now that they are attending classes online.

Post 9/11 GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)

Typically, online-only students using this GI Bill receive about half the amount of MHA that students do taking classes on-campus. One of the first questions Post 9/11 GI Bill students affected by the shutdown ask is if their MHA amount will drop now that they are going to online classes. Right now, one of three actions will happen:.

  1. If a school shuts down temporarily, based on an Executive order of the President or due to an emergency situation, VA may continue benefit payments including MHA to the student for up to 4 weeks during a 12-month period. This authority and limitation are already codified in statute (38 U.S.C. § 3680(a)(2)(A).
  2. If the school remains open virtually and students are transitioned to online classes, then benefit payments will be impacted in one of two ways:
    1. If the switch from training on-campus to online occurs during the term, and the program has been approved by the State Approving Agency (SAA) for delivery online, then the MHA will remain unchanged for the remainder of that term.
    2. For any subsequent terms pursued solely online, the MHA will be reduced to one-half of the authorized amount for that student. The limitations on MHA rates are codified in statute (38 U.S.C. § 3313(c)(1)(B)(iii).
  3. Lastly, if the program has not been approved by the SAA for delivery online, benefit payments including the MHA will stop when students begin training online.

In that regard, emergency legislation was recently introduced (HR6194) by the ranking Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) that if passed would allow the VA the discretion to keep housing allowances at current levels even as universities close their physical campuses. Rep. Roe said in a released statement, “No student veteran, dependent or spouse should be worried about their GI Bill benefits being reduced or cut off because of actions their school is taking in response to COVID-19″.

More flexibility

One thing that many students taking all their classes online cherish is the flexibility to study not only when they want, but when it fits into their life. While this is an advantage for those students, it can be a nemesis for students used to a more rigid environment of attending classes on-campus. These new online students will have to learn to be more self-motivated and disciplined because there are no longer set times to go to class (in most cases) or anyone dictating when to do their course work. Students not good at managing themselves or their time may find online classes more challenging for them and may be at a higher risk of falling behind in their coursework.

Difficulty of Learning

Some students learn better in a physical classroom environment and don’t do as well when faced with online learning. Those most affected include students that learn better when the information is spoken to them as with lectures, or when learning is kinesthetic – meaning they learn better if they can work hands-on, as is the case with many classes requiring labs. Both visual/verbal learners and visual/nonverbal learners – those that learn better by reading and from information in charts and graphs, respectively – usually do better studying online.


For many students going to classes on campus, interacting with fellow students is part of their college experience and can even lead to job offers. Now that many students are going home until further notice, that networking can still happen, but in a different manner. No longer will they have the daily face-to-face contact they had while in class or after. Instead, networking will happen more now via messaging, phone calls, forums, social media, Skype and chat rooms.


While usually not a problem with today’s students, some veterans may have a steeper learning curve when it comes to negotiating online learning because of the higher dependence on technology. Typically the biggest challenge is learning how to get accesses to classes, recorded lectures, submitting assignments, and online research.

These are unprecedented times right now and situations are very fluid, requiring students to adapt as things change, become more relevant and to stay motivated to succeed. Things will eventually get back to normal, but it will take time.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.