NASFAA Signs Letter Requesting Clarity on 'Principles' for Treatment of Vets

In an Executive Order (EO) issued on April 27, 2012, President Obama directed the Departments of Education (ED), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Defense (DoD) to establish Principles of Excellence under which institutions of higher education can improve their services to veterans, military personnel and their families. The EO seeks to strengthen oversight, enforcement, and accountability with regard to military and veterans educational benefits, including Post-9/11 GI Bill and Tuition Assistance Program benefits. The EO further directs the three departments to implement the principles in consultation with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The EO enumerates explicit areas of concern that the departments should develop principles to address, "to the extent permitted by law." VA has sent a letter to schools asking for emailed confirmation by June 30 indicating whether the school agrees to comply with the principles as described in the EO. Confirmation means the school will adhere to the principles by the end of the 2012-13 academic year. VA warned that a response after that date may mean the institution is omitted from VA’s list of institutions that have indicated intent to comply with the principles.

A number of higher education associations expressed concern over VA’s request, because certain principles and their implementation were unclear. NASFAA concurred with their advice to hold off on submitting a confirmation to VA until additional details were provided. Subsequent meetings, webinars and communications have not resulted in further clarity.

On Friday, June 22, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) sent a joint letter signed by NASFAA and 10 other associations to VA, summarizing the points of confusion and requesting more information about the principles. The letter states that while the associations agreed with the spirit of the principles, "it is far from evident how the agencies will construe them and what the practical ramifications will be."

The letter explains that "colleges and universities want to know that if they commit to achieve a standard, they will be able to meet that standard. The principles embody goals that can be achieved only if institutions understand the government’s expectations."

The signatories to the letter urged VA to "encourage institutions to notify it of their intent to make a good faith effort to comply with the principles pending clarifying guidance from the agencies." The letter also encourages VA "to publicize that an institution has provided such notification regardless of when an institution does so." 

NACUBO has reiterated its concerns to its membership, many of whom are also NASFAA members, encouraging institutions to "involve all relevant campus administrators in discussions about how to respond to VA's May 31 letter" and consider constructing their own responses along the lines suggested in the ACE letter. NASFAA concurs with this advice and will continue working with NACUBO and ACE in resolving these issues.