Defense Department Proposes New Rule for Institutions Receiving a Military Education Benefit

August 16, 2013

The Defense Department has issued a proposed rule updating the memorandum of understanding that institutions must sign to participate in its Tuition Assistance Program for active-duty servicemembers.

The rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, incorporates the "principles of excellence" that President Obama issued in 2012 into the agreement, requiring institutions to provide servicemembers with "meaningful information" about the cost of attendance, and provide academic student support services to servicemembers and their families. It also bars colleges from using "unfair, deceptive, and abusive recruiting practices" to entice servicemembers to enroll.

The memorandum was first proposed in March 2011, after Congressional investigators said the Defense Department was not properly overseeing the millions of dollars being awarded through the Tuition Assistance Program. As of late June, more than 3,000 institutions had signed the agreement, according to the notice in the Federal Register.

The draft rule also makes some eligibility changes to the program, while authorizing the military departments to establish service-specific criteria for awarding aid. And it requires the Defense Department to conduct an annual review and notification if it plans to change the benefits that servicemembers can receive.

The latter change appears to be a response to a 2011 decision by the Marine Corps to unilaterally slash tuition assistance to Marines by 80 percent, reducing the maximum benefit from $4,500 a year to $875. The Marine Corps later canceled that cut, and the Defense Department eventually abandoned plans for systemwide reductions.

The Department is accepting comments on the proposed rule until the end of September.