What Happens If You Fail A Class Using The GI Bill?

empty classroom
Students move to distance learning at Wiesbaden High School as shown in this picture of an empty classroom. (Kaden D. Pitt/DVIDS)

Just what happens if you are using the GI Bill for college and fail a class?

We have heard this question asked many times and the answer may surprise you. The VA doesn't care if you fail a class, nope they won't come after you for the money you got. In fact they will let you retake that class as many times as you need to until you get a passing grade, and they will pay you each time.

Sounds pretty unlike the VA doesn't it? Well let's look into this a bit deeper and figure things out.

Punitive Grades

If you fail a class you receive what is called a "punitive grade" for that class. A punitive grade is a grade that doesn't count as earned credit, but is used in determining a your progress toward graduation and your GPA. This means that the grade you receive counts in your overall degree progress, albeit negatively. Since this grade counts towards your graduation progress you are not required to repay any GI Bill money you received for that class.

And, according to the VA, you may take the class again in an attempt to receive credit towards graduation or raise your grade for it and you may receive GI Bill payment for the retaking of the class.

Non-Punitive Grades

A "non-punitive grade" is a grade that doesn't earn credit towards your degree. For example, if you drop a class and get no credit for it, you are getting what is known as a "non-punitive grade. So, since you get no credit, the VA will come after you to get any GI Bill payment you received for that class back from you.

Since non-punitive grades don't count towards your degree you may be required to repay any GI Bill money you received for such classes.

What if You Just Stop Going to Class?

If you just stop going to class because you are failing you will most likely have to pay back any money you received for it. Attending classes is one of the requirements for receiving GI Bill benefits. If you don't attend, you don't get any money.

If you stop attending class, the VA will stop your GI Bill payments retroactive to the beginning date of the term. You will most likely end up owing a lot of money to both the VA and the school. So, if you have a failing grade near the end of a term and decide to just stop going that isn't a good idea, you should keep attending until the end of the term or risk overpayment.

Should You Drop The Class Or Fail The Class?

That is entirely up to you. Some schools say that any grade below a D will not count towards degree completion. So if you get a D or an F you will have to retake the class. The VA will pay you for it, but it will drag down your overall GPA and may make it harder to finish that degree.

Also several schools have rules that if you fail too many classes, or fail the same class more than twice you can be placed on what is known as "Academic Probation" or "Academic Suspension" and they can require you to get counseling or tutoring to continue attendance. If you are on Academic Probation and continue to fail classes the school can kick you out and the VA will stop any future GI Bill payments at ANY school until you prove to them that you can successfully complete your classes.

On the other hand, if you drop the class you can end up owing the VA thousands of dollars and that can be pretty messy. Having a debt to the VA can mean losing future GI Bill payments until the debt is collected, losing compensation benefits, or even having your tax refund withheld. See our page explaining what heppens if you drop a class.

You can also see our page explaining GI Bill overpayments.

So the best advice if you find yourself almost failing a class is to talk to your professor, guidance counselor, and VA certifying official. There are many programs available to you that can help you get back on track. Many schools have free tutoring programs available, in fact the VA will pay for a tutor if you need one.

Keep Up With Your Education Benefits 

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article