Senators Ask Agencies to Provide Higher Ed Groups Clarity on 'Principles' for Treatment of Vets
In a letter to the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Education (ED), Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) urged the delay of the June 30, 2012 deadline for schools to express intent to comply with the President's Executive Order (EO) on the treatment of veterans, service members and their families. The letter also requests clarity on what compliance with the principles would entail.
The April 27 EO directs ED, VA and 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).
On May 31, 2012, VA 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.
The letter from Sens. Burr and Enzi raises concerns about the method of implementation and the clarity of VA’s expectations. The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and the American Council on Education (ACE) have recommended that their members wait for more details before submitting written agreement. NASFAA, along with a number of other higher education groups, shares these concerns.
"[W]e appreciate the intention of Executive Order 13607 in protecting those who protect this nation," Sens. Enzi and Burr write in the letter. "In the pursuit of this goal, however, we do not believe schools should be left uncertain about what is expected of them."
On Friday, June 22, ACE and the 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 from Sens. Enzi and Burr comes on the heels of the ACE and NACUBO letter, and asks that the federal agencies "immediately answer" the questions posed by the higher education groups.
"As that letter indicates, schools are committed to adhering to the Principles per se but need guidance on what will be expected of them over the coming months and years," the Senators’ letter states. "Asking for compliance before information is available on what compliance entails is unreasonable and unfair to these institutions."
The letter also asks that DoD, VA and ED "detail subsequent actions or requirements that may be forthcoming to implement" the executive order.
"Administration officials continue to claim that more details and requests could be promulgated to ensure schools are complying with this order," the Senators' letter states. "To the extent these actions and requirements go beyond simple coordination amongst federal agencies and create further uncertainty and requirements on schools, we request these be outlined upfront to the fullest extent possible."