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UI officials say revised memorandum between schools and Dept. of Defense is promising

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials are relieved by the recent revisions to a Department of Defense required agreement between higher-education institutions on federal student funding.

"In most cases, we are going to work out the issues with the Department of Defense," UI Registrar Larry Lockwood said. "We would make sure no veteran is harmed in the process."

The Defense Department's Memorandum of Understanding is a proposal that aims to strengthen control of college-level programs receiving federal tuition-assistance dollars.

Earlier this month, the department announced that requirements had been softened in response to a national outcry by college, university, and other education officials last fall. The department first proposed the memorandum in March 2011, which some education officials felt breached the governing boundaries of institutions.

"The language used in the [proposal] was pretty arbitrary," Lockwood said. "Fifty-one senators signed a letter saying talk to universities and colleges first before making a decision."

Officials said the original memorandum threatened the future of tuition assistance for the more than 300,000 student active-duty service members nationwide.

The memorandum would affect roughly 100 UI students receiving federal military dollars.

Lockwood said issues with the original proposal included measures dictating how programs award academic credit and conduct student payments. One part, he said, would require the UI, along with other institutions, to use a charge card to process federal assistance for students.

"We aren't authorized to do this," he said, and the UI could have seen a loss of funds that would be shifted to credit card companies, which collect 4 percent profit from the charges.

The final version of the memorandum, which was first postponed in January, will not take effect until summer this year.

Once the new policy goes into effect, only those who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the department will be able to participate in the department's tuition-assistance program.

Lt. Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said the agency's decision to review the proposal was in the best interest of the students.

"We wanted to ensure that ultimately, our service members have the choices of the schools they wanted to go to," she said.

The department works with more than 2,000 schools nationwide, and will it continue to work with more in the future, she said.

"The Department of Defense has been able to collaborate with our partners including the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, American Council on Education, National Association of Institutions for Military Education Services, and numerous veteran-service organizations and military-service organizations," Meadows wrote in an e-mail. "As a result, we have a stronger, clearer Memorandum."

Lockwood said he believes the UI will sign the memorandum at some point, but he is waiting to see the revisions.

Marty Miller, the director of UI billing-information systems, said the issue was more an interaction between the university and the Defense Department.

"Some security and some concerns were just not the way we would want them to be," he said. "There was nothing in [the memorandum] that was going to put the university in a financial situation. It was more of the method."


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