In the years since the GI Bill was created any eligible service member that is still an acting member of the Armed Forces has faced a unique set of challenges that the average college student does not have to. A service member’s education can often become interrupted by deployments, training, and lack of financial resources to adequately pay for all of one’s pursuit of higher education. For years there has been much debate on whether or not Colleges and Universities should be required to adopt military-friendly policies, but now there is finally clarity for this debate.
New legislation from the Defense Department in the form of a revision of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the education of service members specifies that Colleges and Universities will not be required to adopt military-friendly policies, but rather disclose whether or not they have those policies in place and followed. If they fail to adhere to this provision, they will jeopardize their eligibility for military tuition assistance.
In the revision, the Defense Department has sought to alleviate concerns expressed by public Colleges and Universities, as they believed the initial version of the Memorandum of Understanding on the education of service members was too harsh on the institutions.
“We just want to protect our service members.” Said Carolyn Baker, chief of continuing education programs at the Department of Defense; “I anticipate that there will be a warmer reception, because the institutions of higher education that had concerns in the beginning, they actually assisted us in writing the verbiage in the MOU”
Asking schools to stick to the policies of Service members Opportunity Colleges, or SOC, a Military-oriented consortium of schools that some institutions have not joined, the first draft of the memorandum was met with backlash from schools, academic organizations and some members of Congress
The new version, gives institutions the choice to sign the Memorandum either as members or non-members of the SOC. Signing as non-members, schools will be required to be forthright on their policies on a multitude of issues critical to service members, such as “credit transfer policies, program costs, academic residency requirements, and rules governing service members who need to drop classes or re-enroll because of military duty.”
Schools that have signed the first Memorandum are not required to sign the revision, but can if they would rather follow the revised version, according to Baker. “Schools that did not sign the first one must sign the second by March 1. If they do not, any class that starts after that deadline will not be eligible for tuition assistance.”