NAICU Washington Update

Veterans' Education a Focus of House and Senate Committee Action

The Veterans' Affairs Committees of both the House and Senate are considering a series of legislative proposals dealing with veterans' benefits - including measures on how to address the interruption of a student's education due to military service.

The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, on June 26, approved H.R. 2910, introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), calling for the refund of tuition and fees for any program a student did not complete due to military service. Institutions also would be required to provide the student the opportunity to re-enroll in the program once service is completed. Similar provisions were added to S. 3023, the Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 2008, approved by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Both measures amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act - raising some questions about whether these new provisions are sufficiently coordinated with the ongoing efforts of the Department of Education to find the best ways to address special needs of students called up for military service. Specifically, the enforcement mechanism under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is simply the right of a returning veteran to file a lawsuit. Unlike the Higher Education Act, there is no federal agency charged with providing guidance to the student, and assuring compliance by institutions, on specified refund policies. This means there is no provision for informing colleges of any new obligations as a result of the amendment, or of reconciling new requirements with existing law.

NAICU and the rest of the higher education community has been actively engaged in trying to improve the legislation. Further discussion of these issues will continue as the measures make their way through the legislative process.

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