Deadline for Colleges to Sign New Agreement on Military Tuition Assistance Is Extended

Bowing to pressure from members of Congress and colleges, the Defense Department has agreed to postpone its January 1 deadline for institutions to sign a controversial new memorandum of understanding in order to remain eligible to receive military tuition assistance.

The 90-day extension gives colleges and the department more time to negotiate changes in the document, which the department has said is intended to improve educational outcomes for service members and better safeguard taxpayer dollars. In 2010, the department awarded $542-million to active-duty service members through the Tuition Assistance Program. The program is distinct from the GI Bill, which offers tuition support to veterans.

Several prominent universities have threatened to forgo the aid if the department does not change certain criteria in the memorandum. Those include requirements that colleges award credit for military training and allow service members to spend as little as a year on campus before receiving a bachelor's degree.

In a letter sent to the department last month, the American Council on Education said those requirements, and others, were "at odds with traditional assumptions about federal versus institutional control over academic affairs."

The Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm, has urged the department to expand its oversight of the Tuition Assistance Program.

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