On August 14, the Department of Defense (DoD) published a notice of proposed rulemaking for its voluntary education programs that includes the newest draft of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for comment. A signed MOU is required for institutions to participate in the Tuition Assistance (TA) program, as well as other service-related tuition support programs. After the comment period, DoD will review comments, issue final regulations, and then post the final text of the MOU on its website. Institutions would then be required to sign the new MOU within 60 days in order to participate in the TA program.
While institutions can review the proposed rules and draft MOU in the Federal Register, NACUBO has prepared a redlined version of the draft that more clearly shows the proposed changes. The MOU is included as an appendix to the rules (Federal Register p. 49394, NACUBO redline p. 29), followed by the four service-specific addendums.
As expected, the draft continues DoD efforts to incorporate the "Principles of Excellence" that President Obama outlined in Executive Order 13607. For business officers, the most notable is DoD's edit in Section f of the MOU (Federal Register p. 49397; NACUBO redline p. 38) that would require institutions to develop a policy for returning unearned TA funds for service members who withdraw prior to course completion that is aligned with the Department of Education's return to Title IV funds (R2T4) rules. No details are provided for how this would work.
Throughout the MOU, DoD has deleted "and fees" when referencing "tuition and fees," ignoring the fact different institutions place different charges in both the "tuition" category and the "fee" category. Section f explicitly restricted TA payments to tuition only. This could significantly impact community colleges and some low-cost public institutions. With the current cap set at $250 per credit hour, this change may not have a practical effect at schools with higher tuition charges.
Also, in an addendum to the MOU specifically for service members in the Air Force, the section allowing a waiver to the requirement for institutions to accept the Government Purchase Card has been deleted (Federal Register p. 49399; NACUBO redline p. 45).
There are a number of other proposed changes to the MOU including the following requiring participating institutions to:
- Provide meaningful information to students about the financial cost of attendance
- Provide academic and student support services
- Offer service members loan counseling before private student loans are offered
- Have readmission policies for service members, including for absences of less than 30 days
- Comply with Title IV program integrity rules
NACUBO encourages members to submit comments by the September 30th deadline. Please share your comments and concerns with us by sending them to Bryan Dickson. NACUBO, in a joint effort with ACE, will be submitting formal comments to DoD.