AACRAO Issues Recommendation for Revised DoD MOU

AACRAO Issues Recommendation for Revised DoD MOU

January 10, 2013

Last month, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an updated version of its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for participation in the Tuition Assistance (TA) program. The original agreement proved controversial because some of its academic and administrative requirements conflicted with well-established policies of many colleges and universities.

The revised MOU does ameliorate some of the previous concerns raised by the higher education community. The updated document also incorporates additional requirements, including a number of provisions outlined in President Obama's April 2012 executive order and the associated "Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members."

Under the new agreement, Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) member institutions must adhere to the SOC Consortium Principles and Criteria and the Military Student Bill of Rights. SOC schools must also provide processes to determine credit awards and learning acquired for specialized military training and occupational experience; and recognize and use the ACE Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services. The updated language does not expand the requirements to mandate prior learning credit, but does urge SOC institutions to utilize the available guidance when applicable to a service member's degree program.

Institutions that are not members of SOC must adhere to requirements aimed at similar objectives, but retain greater flexibility in the awarding of institutional credit and the establishment of academic residency requirements. Non-SOC schools will be required to disclose their transfer credit policies prior to enrollment; disclose their policies regarding award of academic credit for prior learning experiences; disclose any academic residency requirements; disclose institutions' programs and costs, including tuition, fees, and other charges; provide access to an institutional financial aid advisor; provide information on institutional "drop/add," withdrawal and readmission policies with potential impact of military duties; conduct academic screening/competency testing with placement based on student readiness; designate POC to provide appropriate academic and financial aid counseling and student support services; institute policies to ban recruitment inducements; and refrain from high-pressure recruitment tactics/incentive based directly or indirectly on securing enrollments or federal financial aid (including TA).

All educational institutions will be required to provide an evaluated educational plan for a service member's degree program, among other things. Although all of the required information is typically captured and demonstrated through an institution's degree audit report, some institutions have been told that the process does not satisfy the requirement. Moving forward, we ask that institutions provide feedback on this and other issues that arise and will continue to push for guidance and clarification during the implementation process.

Overall, AACRAO is pleased with the revised agreement. While there are still a few issues that could pose a problem for certain institutions, we recommend that institutions wishing to participate in the DoD's TA program sign on to the updated MOU before the March 1, 2013 deadline. After that date, schools without a signed agreement will not be eligible to enroll service members under the TA program.

Additionally, we recommend that institutions that have already signed on to the original MOU re-sign the revised version.

Separate from the recently revised MOU, the DoD will issue another iteration of the agreement in the Spring or Summer of 2013. The 2013 MOU is expected to incorporate additional requirements outlined in the "Principles of Excellence." Schools will need to provide students with a personalized, standardized form with costs, financial aid and outcome measures; obtain the approval of the institution's accrediting agency for new course or program offerings before enrolling students; allow service members and reservists to be readmitted to a program if they are temporarily unable to attend class or have to suspend their studies due to service requirements; and have a refund policy that is aligned with the refund of unearned student aid rules applicable to federal student aid.

Institutions will be required to resign this version of the agreement to participate in the TA program.

AACRAO will alert the membership when the notice for the 2013 MOU is published in the Federal Register.


Related Links:

Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding for the Tuition Assistance Program


Michelle Cormier Mott

Government Relations