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Sign-on Deadline for Principles of Excellence Extended to August 1

June 29, 2012

Updates:

  • On June 29, Robert Worley II, director of education services at VA, sent a letter to institutions indicating that the deadline to agree to comply with the Principles had been extended to August 1.
  • On June 28 Senators Burr (R-NC) and Enzi (R-WY) sent a letter asking the agencies to delay the June 30 deadline, answer questions posed by the NACUBO/ACE letter, and detail subsequent actions or requirements that may be forthcoming in implementing the Executive Order.

The following message was sent to NACUBO Primary Representatives on June 22, 2012:

Dear Colleague:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently asked state approving agencies to send a letter to education institutions approved for VA education benefits. The May 31 letter addresses the "Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses and Other Family Members" set forth in Executive Order 13607. It asks the recipient institution to send an e-mail to VA by June 30 with notice of the institution's intent to comply with the Principles by the end of academic year 2012-2013. Institutions that notify VA of their intent to comply may be included on a list published on the GI Bill website (www.gibill.va.gov). We understand that some institutions did not receive the May 31 letter, or that the letter may not have been addressed to the appropriate official at each institution. We urge you to confirm that the appropriate administrators at your institution are considering the May 31 letter.

On June 4, NACUBO suggested that members hold off on sending a commitment to comply with the Principles of Excellence because of lack of clarity about the requirements. Unfortunately, a series of webcasts offered by the agencies involved have failed to resolve several issues but the VA-imposed deadline is approaching.

We recently joined several other associations to provide comments on the Principles and the VA request. Our letter affirms our commitment to fostering service member- and veteran-friendly campuses and details aspects of the Principles about which we hope the federal agencies can provide further clarification. The letter expresses our concern that although the Principles are very broadly expressed, how the agencies will construe them and what the practical ramifications will be is far from evident. We ask the agencies to clarify their intent regarding the Principles to enable institutions to assess the ramifications of the Principles for their policies, procedures and practices and thereby to develop and implement compliance steps. We question VA's request in light of notable ambiguities as to the meaning of the Principles and the government's expectations, and we explain that colleges and universities want to know that if they commit to achieve a standard, they will be able to meet that standard.

NACUBO joins ACE and the other associations that signed on to the letter to encourage institutions to involve all relevant campus administrators in discussions about how to respond to VA's May 31 letter. The May 31 letter includes form responses, but they are described as "examples" only. VA has indicated orally on numerous occasions that a statement of an institution's "intent," not its current compliance or ability to comply, is what is wanted. An institution may want to consider whether to provide a statement to the effect that the institution intends to undertake good faith compliance with the Principles, pending clarifying guidance from the Agencies. VA has not made clear, though, the types of statements it will or will not accept for purposes of the GI Bill website list described above. An institution may decide not to respond or to respond at a later date, perhaps when more in known about the meaning of the Principles. The government has identified no legal consequences for failing to respond by June 30.

We know that you share our interest in serving veterans and service members with the respect and consideration they are due. Questions about this matter should be directed to Anne Gross, vice president for regulatory affairs, at anne.gross@nacubo.org or 202.861.2544.

Sincerely,

John Walda
President and Chief Executive Officer


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