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DoD may pull tuition help from 900 colleges

Feb. 27, 2013 - 07:01AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 - 07:01AM  |  
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Several thousand soldiers who draw tuition assistance may have to switch colleges if they want to continue attending school on the Army's dime.

That's because more than 900 colleges attended by active and reserve soldiers are in danger of losing their eligibility to receive tuition assistance payments unless they sign an agreement designed to ensure certain educational services and protections for soldiers.

The Defense Department has directed that all educational institutions that accept TA sign a Voluntary Education Partnership memorandum of understanding by March 1 to remain eligible for such payments.

As of February, 3,100 schools were registered with GoArmyEd, the Army's online system for managing tuition assistance.

However, only 2,185 of those schools had signed the memorandum of understanding.

The 915 remaining schools must sign the memo by March 1 to remain TA-eligible.

About 18,000 soldiers, or 9 percent of the 201,000 active and reserve soldiers who draw TA, attend schools that have not yet signed the memo of understanding, according to Dr. Pamela Raymer, director of the Army Continuing Education division of Human Resources Command.

TA records indicate that most of these soldiers serve in the National Guard, or with Cadet Command ROTC detachments, and are attending local colleges and universities.

Raymer said the Army has made a major effort to contact these soldiers and alert them that their school may be dropped from the TA program. If a soldier is in a class with a school that does not sign the MOU by March 1, he will be allowed to complete the class.

However, on March 1, the school will be shut out of GoArmyEd, and the soldier will have to switch to a TA-eligible school to continue his education with Army funding assistance.

Raymer urged soldiers in this situation to contact their local education center for assistance in switching schools.

There are 86 active Army education centers, 16 Army Reserve Readiness Command education offices and 54 National Guard education offices that can provide such assistance.

Protecting soldiers

Schools registered with GoArmyEd include a combination of institutions that provide postsecondary education programs online and in traditional classroom environments.

The vast majority of the 201,000 Regular Army, Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers who draw tuition assistance are working toward undergraduate and graduate college degrees, according to Raymer.

Under the current TA formula, payments are capped at $250 per semester hour of instruction, and a maximum annual total of $4,500.

During fiscal 2012, the Army paid out nearly $373 million in tuition assistance payments.

The memorandum of understanding issued by the Defense Department conveys the commitments and agreements between the educational institution and the Army to ensure that soldiers receive a quality education.

"We want these protections for the soldier to maximize the transfer of credits, consider military skills and experience for college credit, maximize academic testing and minimize residency requirements," Raymer said.

The MOU also reinforces an executive order issued last year designed to frustrate the predatory marketing and sales practices of some for-profit schools.

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