Tester scores victory for military, veteran students

Defense Department agrees to reevaluate proposed changes to tuition assistance

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today announced that he secured more time for the Defense Department to work with the country’s colleges and universities to improve the military’s tuition assistance program.

Tester earlier this month requested that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delay proposed new tuition restrictions related to academic credit and residency requirements for active-duty troops and veterans.  Panetta responded by giving colleges and universities three more months – until March 30, 2012 – to work with the Defense Department and service organizations to find a compromise that more schools will support. 

Tester has heard from military and education groups who believe that the regulations as currently written would hurt student enrollment and discourage schools from participating in the popular initiative.

“The [regulations] fail to address many of the key issues facing our military students,” Tester wrote Panetta.  “It also fails to address many legitimate concerns that veterans and military service organizations have about the recruitment, enrollment, and support provided to member of the armed forces, their families and veterans.”

Tester added that while the changes – meant to stem fraud and abuse – are important, they would ultimately reduce the number of service members and veterans pursuing higher education by infringing on educational integrity and academic plans.

The military tuition assistance initiative supports mostly active-duty service members, but is also utilized by veterans who enroll in the National Guard.  The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Blue Star Families all oppose the proposed changes. 

Tester is a leading advocate for improving the education opportunities of America’s service members and veterans.  Most recently, he introduced legislation in October to ensure that education benefits for National Guardsmen and Reservists keep pace with the rising costs of college.

Text of Tester’s bipartisan letter to Panetta is available HERE.

Text of Panetta’s response is available online HERE.