The Principles of Excellence includes guidance including how schools should approach standardized costs, “aggressive and fraudulent” recruiting tactics, re-admitting students, academic and financial counseling, and many other subjects relevant to using federal education benefits.
In 2012, the President issued an Executive Order to address certain issues related to higher education for veterans, currently serving military members, spouses and families who are eligible to use federal aid, school recruiting, accreditation, and related areas.
Executive Order 13607, Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members was signed into law on April 27, 2012.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill included sweeping changes to the previous version known as the Montgomery GI Bill. The ability to use GI Bill funds became greatly expanded including the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits to a family member.
The expanded availability of federal funds to pay for college – even colleges that are not public institutions or traditional degree-type colleges-was quickly followed by “reports of aggressive and deceptive targeting” of those eligible to use GI Bill funds or other federal money.
What kind of aggressive targeting? According to the actual text of the Executive Order, “some institutions have recruited veterans with serious brain injuries and emotional vulnerabilities without providing academic support and counseling.”
The Executive order also mentions incidents where service members were encouraged to apply for “costly institutional loans rather than encouraging them to apply for Federal student loans first.”
Furthermore, reports of misleading recruitment efforts – especially those conducted on military bases – and a failure to provide information to prospective students to help them make an informed choice of academic institutions.
What The Executive Order Was Designed To Do To Help Military Families
The text of the Executive Order directs the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Education to establish a set of principles that would be required for any educational institution, “receiving funding from Federal military and veterans’ educational benefits programs, including benefits programs provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance Program.”
You read that correctly – any school that receives federal funds such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill would be required to adhere to the standards set by the executive order.
These principles would require the schools to provide “meaningful information” to prospective students including honest information about the cost of attendance, how to best use federal funds or benefits such as the GI Bill, and to provide support for students.
The Rules And Requirements Of The Principles Of Excellence Program
The institution must provide potential students eligible to receive federal military and veterans’ educational benefits with a personalized and standardized form designed:
- To help those prospective students understand the total cost of the educational program, including tuition and fees.
- To help prospective students to know how much of those expenses are covered by their federal educational benefits.
- To help students understand the type and amount of financial aid they may qualify for as well as any estimated student loan debt that would be due at some point after graduation.
All of this information is required pre-enrollment. The institution is required to inform these students about the availability of federal financial assistance and is required to create and enforce policies to notify these students “of their potential eligibility for that aid before packaging or arranging private student loans or alternative financing programs.”
There are other important requirements:
- Put an end to any “fraudulent and unduly aggressive recruiting techniques” including such activities on military installations, where applicable.
- End any misrepresentation, payment of incentive compensation, or failure to meet State authorization requirements where applicable.
- The institution is required to seek approval of the applicable accrediting agency “for new course or program offerings before enrolling students in such courses or programs, provided that such approval is appropriate under the substantive change requirements of the accrediting agency”.
- The institution is required to permit military members including members of the Reserve to be readmitted to any program they are temporarily unable to attend (or would be required to suspend school attendance) due to military service requirements.
Furthermore, any participant in the Principles of Excellence program would be required to take take additional steps to enable “short absences due to service obligations” as long as satisfactory academic progress is being made by the military student.
There is also a refund policy requirement that that school must ensure is “aligned with the refund of unearned student aid rules applicable to Federal student aid provided through the Department of Education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as required under section 484B of that Act when students withdraw prior to course completion.”
The institution is required to offer educational plans for all using federal or veteran education benefits and designate academic and financial advising for service members, veterans, and dependents.
Limitations Of The Principles Of Excellence Program
This executive order would not apply to overseas schools, high schools, free colleges or any institution that does not charge tuition and fees. Also exempt are on-the-job training programs, residencies, and internships.
How To Locate A School That Participates In the Principles Of Excellence Program
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site has a GI Bill Comparison Tool that can help prospective GI Bill users find a school that complies with the Principles of Excellence program.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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