NAICU Washington Update

VA Asks Colleges to Endorse "Principles of Excellence"

June 12, 2012

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has requested that institutions approved to offer VA educational benefits "commit to" the principles of excellence outlined in Executive Order 13607 (see May 14 NAICU Washington Update story).  In a May 31 letter the VA requests institutions to respond by June 30.  But, beyond the general language of the Executive Order itself, the VA hasn't provided a detailed explanation of its expectations for institutions agreeing to the principles. 

Two webinars, held on June 7 and 8, were intended to provide clarification.  Because the June 7 webinar was plagued with technical difficulties, a third webinar has been added on June 15, 10-11:30 a.m. EST (use this link to register).

Based on information available thus far through the webinars, it appears that many details about the requirements won't be filled in until after the June 30 deadline. 

One example is the provision that institutions provide prospective students with a "personalized and standardized form" outlining the cost of the program, the availability of aid, estimated debt, and student outcomes information.  According to Department of Education officials, this form is the "Know Before You Owe" financial aid shopping sheet being developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Board.  The CFPB will be accepting public comments on the shopping sheet (via a comment box on the page) until June 20. (See related May 14 Washington Update story)

Provisions on institutional refund policies are particularly ambiguous in the executive order.  The refund policy provisions are intended to apply only to institutions that are not in compliance with the return of Title IV fund requirements of the Higher Education Act, but the language is written more broadly.  Other questions have arisen on the definition of "educational plans," since "degree requirements" is the more commonly used terminology.

A list of the institutions agreeing to the principles will be posted on the VA website.

Basically, the VA is presenting institutions with the choice of either committing to policies and procedures that have yet to be developed, or risk being painted as hostile to our nation's service members and veterans.  Sadly, the unscrupulous providers - the target of the executive order - will have no qualms about signing an agreement they have no intention of honoring.

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