ED Offers Guidance on Executive Order for Treatment of Vets
The Department of Education has issued guidance in Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) GEN-12-10 regarding President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13607, detailing "Principles of Excellence" for the treatment of veterans, military personnel and their families by postsecondary institutions.
Implementation by schools of the EO is requested on a voluntary basis beginning with award year 2013-14 by the agencies involved: the Departments of Education (ED), Defense (DoD), and Veteran Affairs (VA). Putting some of the principles into practice is dependent on further action by those agencies.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has extended to Aug. 1 the deadline for higher education institutions to indicate their intent to comply with the Principles of Excellence. VA is also working with the Departments of Defense and Education to develop and disseminate further guidance on complying with the principles.
It is NASFAA’s understanding that all three agencies have reviewed and approved the DCL, and that ED will maintain a single source of information, including updates, about the EO for all three Departments. The DCL briefly summarizes and explains compliance with the following areas:
- standardized cost form
- federal aid information
- aggressive and fraudulent recruiting
- individual education plans
- academic and financial counseling point(s) of contact
Standardized Cost Form
An institution that agrees to comply with the principles in EO 13607 is expected to use the "Know Before You Owe" model aid offer format for prospective students who are eligible to receive Federal military, veterans, and family member educational benefits. ED expects to make the model aid offer form available sometime this summer. The DCL lists the data elements that will appear on the model form. ED has been working with software vendors to facilitate implementation of the model.
Federal Aid Information
The DCL lists the information that an institution would need to give to satisfy the notification requirement in the EO, and provides a sample explanation of military education benefit programs.
State Authorization, Accreditation, Aggressive and Fraudulent Recruiting
Institutions that comply with Title IV rules regarding state authorization, misrepresentation, incentive compensation, and other program integrity regulations will be in compliance with the EO. Institutions that follow the substantive change requirements of their accrediting agency will be in compliance with the EO.
Title IV regulations at 668.18 cover the readmission principle of the EO. The DCL points out that these rules, which became effective July 1, 2010, are further explained in the Federal Student Aid Handbook.
This aspect of the EO remains fraught with questions. Use of terminology is also somewhat confusing, but it is NASFAA’s understanding that the EO and DCL do not affect the institutional refund policy, although the language of the DCL is confused on this point. The apparent intention of the EO was to align the return policies of the three Federal Departments, using ED’s R2T4 rules as a basis for consistency. Such an alignment would require DoD and VA to issue revised rules regarding students who do not complete their coursework. Questions remain concerning when and how institutions could start applying ED rules to DoD and VA funds, to whom funds should be returned, and how other related factors, such as the definition of a term, might be affected. Whether DoD and VA rules can be reformulated in time for the 2013-14 award year is also uncertain.
The DCL also comments on the treatment of student who withdrew because they were called up for active duty or active service.
Individual Education Plans
Information typically made available in an institution’s course catalog fulfills the EO requirement to disclose general degree requirements. The DCL also elaborates on this requirement as with regard to transfer credits. The DCL gives institutions 60 days to provide an "evaluated educational plan" once the student has selected a degree program and all required official transcripts have been received. The DCL defines the terms "degree requirements," "educational plan," and "evaluated educational plan."
Transfer credit poses challenges to schools that might not have or might not require information about prior attendance. This particular area may need further elaboration as schools determine what procedures will be needed within the context of their transfer policies.
Advising Point of Contact
Institutions may designate a person or office to serve as a point of contact for service members, veterans, and family members seeking information about available, appropriate academic counseling, financial aid counseling, and student support services at the institution. The DCL details expected knowledge that contacts should have.
Department of Defense MOU
It is NASFAA’s understanding that DoD will continue its current work on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has been in the works regarding participation in military education benefits. That MOU will then subsequently be revised to incorporate the principles of the EO.