University puts off decision to maintain military tuition assistance

Six educational organizations first petitioned Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in November to reconsider stipulations attached to federal financial aid for active duty students. Photo courtesy of the United States Navy.

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Max Schwager.

The University has not yet decided if it will continue to participate in the Department of Defense’s tuition assistance program, despite a deadline to commit by the end of this month.

Ongoing participation in the program – which provides federal financial assistance to active military duty students – has been under consideration after stipulations were added that limited individual universities’ control over their housing and credit transfer requirements.

GW and more than 1,000 other universities nationwide are members of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities – one of six organizations that signed a letter petitioning against the new government conditions last semester.

“It is too early to speculate on the impact of the changes,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

After the educational groups levied their concerns with the government provisions in November, the Department of Defense extended the commitment deadline – by which schools must approve the changes to continue receiving financial aid funds – by three months. The cutoff now stands at March 30.

In a Nov. 21 letter addressed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, educational groups said the new stipulations could force some institutions to accept transfer credits that do not meet current standards, including academic hours for military training and experience.

The additional Defense Department terms would also reduce on-campus residency obligations for participating students to one year – clashing with GW’s two-year requirement for its undergraduate students.

The University’s Director of Government Relations Kent Springfield declined to comment on how the changes would affect GW’s participation in the tuition assistance program.

The University offers $250 per credit hour through the program to students who have been active in the United States military, up to $4,500 per year, Sherrard said. About 75 students received benefits from the defense program this academic year.

Public Affairs Officer for the Defense Department Lieutenant Commander Kate Meadows said that the government is “working with schools to address their concerns,” but is not currently considering altering the stipulations attached to the federal dollars.

Meadows added that the department hopes schools “will stay with the program after we address their concerns.”

Other signatories of the letter include the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities.

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