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House Reviews Quality of Military Off-duty Education

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2010 – A House Armed Services Committee panel heard testimony from Defense Department officials yesterday on the quality of off-duty servicemember voluntary education opportunities.

During 2010, an estimated 380,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will receive $580 million in DOD tuition-assistance funding for college programs.

Robert Gordon, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, stressed to the committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee the importance of education opportunities to the military community.

All post-secondary institutions receiving tuition assistance dollars, on or off military installations, must be certified by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Education Department, Gordon said.

“Education helps prepare our servicemembers to be … better thinkers, better analysts, and better leaders who will continue to make valuable contributions to our nation,” he added.

Gordon outlined voluntary education oversight programs already in place and initiatives to more closely monitor distance-learning programs. While maintaining stringent guidelines for post-secondary schools operating on military installations, he said, the department has instituted a Military Installation Voluntary Education Review, which provides a third-party, independent review of on-installation programs.

“DOD is proactively taking this approach to quality one step further to include those programs not on our installations,” Gordon said. “To that end, in the future, we will use improved quality criteria to review programs of those institutions receiving [tuition assistance] dollars that operate on and off our installations.”

The new policy, which is on the Federal Register for public review, requires all institutions receiving tuition-assistance funds to have signed agreements that articulate their responsibilities. One such requirement is to participate in the DOD Military Installation Voluntary Education Review Process, known as MIVER. The policy covers all traditional classroom and distance-learning institutions operating on or off military installations.

Service representatives also testified before the committee.

The Army’s representative, Anthony J. Stamilio, civilian personnel quality of life director for the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, endorsed the review process. Since 2005, he said, the process has evaluated programs on 10 Army installations.

“With the planned expansion of MIVER to include distance learning and off-post providers, Army expects to have greater assurance that soldiers and the Army are receiving quality and value for its tuition assistance investment,” he said.

Stamilio said schools that don’t fulfill their agreements under the new policy can be denied tuition assistance funding.

“The quality of education received by our servicemembers is very important to DOD,” Gordon said.

 

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