Service members stand to lose tuition assistance
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 01:02
If Oregon State University does not sign a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Defense by March 1, approximately 95 armed service members attending OSU stand to lose tuition assistance paid for by the Defense Department.
The memorandum of understanding, which came about after concerns were raised about private, unaccredited colleges taking advantage of service members, would require universities to meet new guidelines and requirements before receiving funding from the Defense Department.
The memorandum would require schools to report students’ grades of those who receive tuition assistance and make sure universities have someone available to meet regulations and answer students’ questions about them.
The memorandum of understanding is now in its second draft, after the first draft was rejected by around 80 percent of the schools it affected. The Defense Department issued a second memorandum in December 2012.
Gus Bedwell, veteran’s services adviser at OSU, said the new memorandum still provides challenges for the university because it asks the university to release personal information on students to the Defense Department. Bedwell said officials are worried the memorandum may violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and that the new act may create extra work for officials who will now be required to upload information about grades — work formerly done by the students themselves.
Tuition assistance is a Defense Department program designed to pay for college for active duty service members and some reserve and National Guard servicemen and women. It pays up to 100 percent of tuition not exceeding $4,500 annually.
Both Bedwell and a Defense Department website say the Department of Defense is working on a third draft of the memorandum of understanding that will supersede the second one. However, the third draft is not completed, and schools will be required to sign the second draft if they wish to continue to receive tuition assistance funding.
Last week, the Associated Students of Oregon State University congress passed a resolution urging the university to sign the memorandum. The resolution passed with no opposition.
“I think they are going to implement it and they should. This is about protecting veterans from fraud and the university should have nothing to hide,” said Matt Palm, an ASOSU representative who co-sponsored the resolution. “It just seems like the federal government is making sure its money is being spent the way it should be.”
Julie Stewart, ASOSU director of veteran’s affairs, said the information needed by the Defense Department is already on MyDegrees and is in favor of the university signing the memorandum.
“It doesn’t seem unreasonable and it seems like something OSU can do,” Stewart said. “I’m confident the administration can come up with some sort of management plan to make it happen.”
If the university doesn’t sign, those receiving assistance will not receive any beginning spring term.
Don Iler, editor-in-chief
On Twitter: @doniler