By Debbie Gregory.
The Defense Department has had its hands full with the Tuition Assistance (TA) program. Due to budgetary restraints, TA was among the first programs to be reduced. Last March, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps suspended their TA programs completely. After an overwhelming outcry from military advocacy groups and the general public, the programs were hastily reinstated, albeit with a much smaller budget and heavier eligibility restrictions. The continued existence of the Military Tuition Assistance Program has required the DOD to take further steps to ensure that the program is being used appropriately by the Military users/students and the schools that receive money from the program.
Tuition Assistance is NOT the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It is NOT intended to get a head start on civilian education. TA is designed to make education opportunities available to Active duty personnel in their off-time in order to advance their military careers. For this reason, TA is a vital retention tool, ensuring that its career senior enlisted and officers are well educated and properly equipped to lead our armed forces.
The DOD issued new policies that will govern the use of its retention tool. Among the changes are quality control measures for students, and new eligibility requirements for the participating schools. The DOD will now require schools to meet Title IV requirements, which means that they must take part in civilian federal aid programs to be allowed to accept TA students and money.
The requirement can be found in the latest Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), MOU 3, dated February 7, 2014, which states, “As an educational institution with a current DOD Voluntary Education Partnership MOU, you will have 18 months following the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register to successfully meet the Title IV requirement. During this time, you will be allowed to continue participating in the Tuition Assistance program, enrolling new and current students as long as you are actively pursuing Title IV eligibility.”
This MOU is based on the “Principles of Excellence” for military education that was described in an April, 2012 executive order from President Obama. Included in the MOU is a new Postsecondary Education Complaint System, which offers education benefits users a tool to offer feedback or file complaints. The MOU also requires that schools not use “unfair, deceptive and abusive recruiting practices,” provide academic and student support to troops and their families, and give “meaningful information to students about the financial cost.”
Most public and non-profit schools already meet Title IV requirements and won’t be affected by the new rule. But the new rule could affect several for-profit schools, which are a major source of licensing, certification and military distance learning programs that TA students frequently use. According to the Distance Education and Training Council, 88 of the 102 distance education schools that it accredits would be ineligible to offer TA under the new requirement.
The memorandum has been received with mixed reviews. Many military advocacy groups are in favor of the changes and applaud the DOD’s efforts. But many school officials, even those at public schools unaffected by the new rule, believe that the changes are unnecessary, and detrimental to the education process.
For more information about Tuition Assistance and the changes in eligibility for schools and students, it is recommended that you visit the DOD’s webpage for Voluntary Education Partnerships.