WASHINGTON, April 3, 2012 - When a new policy takes effect -- probably this summer -- schools will need to have a signed memorandum of understanding to participate in the Defense Department's Tuition Assistance Program, Pentagon officials said.
A 90-day extension that expired March 30 allowed DOD officials to work with stakeholders to address issues associated with the memorandum, and a revised memorandum now is complete, officials said.
When the new policy takes effect, schools that provide education programs through the DOD Tuition Assistance Program must agree to the new memorandum and have a signed copy on file with the Defense Department for service members receiving tuition assistance approval to attend their institution, officials said.
The memorandum is meant to ensure service members have the widest variety of choices for their continued education, officials said, explaining that it puts important educational protections for service members and government oversight into writing.
"I am pleased that over the past 90 days we have been able to collaborate with our partners, including the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; American Council on Education; National Association of Institutions for Military Education Services; and numerous veteran service organizations and military service organizations," said Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. "As a result, we have a stronger, clearer memorandum."
The revised memorandum contains these key guidelines:
-- Prior to enrollment, schools must disclose all policies regarding admissions, transfer of credit and residency requirements, as well as costs such as tuition, fees and other charges to the service member;
-- Prior to enrollment, schools must provide service members access to a financial aid advisor who will provide a clear and complete explanation of available financial aid, including Title IV, and appropriate loan counseling before offering, recommending, or singing up a student for a school loan; and
-- Schools must have a policy that bans aggressive marketing and inducements, and must refrain from aggressively marketing to military students or use inducements to encourage military students to enroll in their school.
Once internal coordination of the revised memorandum is complete, schools will have ample opportunity to review and sign the memorandum before the policy goes into effect, officials said.
Academic institutions participating in the Tuition Assistance Program will continue to receive tuition assistance, regardless of whether they have signed the original memorandum with the department. Once the new policy goes into effect, only those schools that have signed a memorandum of understanding with the department will be able to receive tuition assistance.
Institutions that have signed or are in the process of signing the original memorandum will not have to re-sign or make changes to the document, officials noted.
"Even though more than 2,070 institutions of higher learning have already signed the memorandum, it is the department's intent to ensure our service members have the widest variety of choices for their continued education," Gordon said.