AUSTIN, Texas — Schools are still struggling to meet Defense Department requirements related to tuition assistance, but DoD officials said they will work with colleges and universities to correct the mistakes, rather than punish them.
As part of a new review process, which is in its second year, DoD analyzed 250 schools, looking into whether they are following rules related to advertising, financial issues, accreditation and opportunities after students graduate.
Every school DoD reviewed had at least one "finding" that they were in violation of DoD rules. The most problematic institutions had 17 findings, while the least had just one. The most common result was between five and nine findings, according to DoD data.
DoD officials stressed that they don’t view such violations as a breach of the agreement schools must sign to participate in TA — as long as the institutions address the problems.
"It's a potential noncompliance. The only time it becomes a compliance issue is when the school decides not to correct it," Anthony Clarke, a DoD analyst, told school officials attending a military education conference Wednesday.
“So we have findings on the schools ... under the process, but we are also certain that at least 95 percent of those schools are going to make the effort to correct it,” Clarke said.
Clarke and Scott Flood, a manager with project contractor Guidehouse LLP, presented the information during a panel at the Council of College and Military Educators conference.
“The results from this year and last year were highly similar,” Flood said. “Not really a surprise, because we hadn’t had a chance to get the feedback out through forums like this."
Problems related to schools' descriptions of financial matters and students' opportunities after graduating were most common, according to DoD data. But advertising and marketing issues were DoD’s biggest concern.
Flood noted advertisements with official DoD uniforms and logos, which the department is concerned could be misinterpreted as official DoD endorsements.
"The DoD doesn't want to impede your marketing efforts. It just wants [you] to follow the rules," Flood said.
For-profit colleges and universities have faced heightened scrutiny in recent years, amid reports that some institutions misled service members and veterans, delivering low-quality but over-priced education.
Flood stressed that the DoD review process didn’t target schools based on whether they are for-proft, public or private. Instead, the review sought to evaluate each school type in reference to how many of those schools have signed on to the TA agreement. For-profits account for about 10 percent of schools participating in TA, and they were about 8 percent of the review sample.