What is the Principles of Excellence Program?

The Principles of Excellence is a set of guidelines established by an executive order in 2014. These guidelines ensure that veterans, service members and their families have the information necessary to appropriately use their GI Bill education benefits.

The Principles of Excellence have a solid precedent. After the second world war, Congress passed the GI Bill, which resulted in more than eight million veterans getting an education. Since then, no further updates had been made to bring those provisions up to date. With the surge of new online degree programs and the emergence of for-profit schools, some universities and colleges began unfairly targeting service people because of their federal benefits. In 2008, a new law was passed that ensured federal military education funding would only go to schools that did not engage in certain negative practices. The Principles of Excellence provide a program for institutions to promote transparency and ensure student success under the new law.

What Schools Were Doing Wrong

Many schools were recruiting vets that had traumatic physical or emotional injuries without providing support services that would help them succeed. They also encouraged military personnel to take out high-interest private loans or loans through the schools instead of informing them about lower-cost federal options. Additionally, schools went to military bases to recruit students and didn’t disclose information to the veterans such as the graduation rate of the institution.

Resource: Top 15 Online Colleges for Military and G.I. Bill

Requirements Under the New Guidelines

Before enrollment, schools must provide prospective veteran students with a personalized form that tells them what the total cost of their education will be including fees, tuition, housing and other charges. The form will also tell the vets about what portion of their education may not be covered by veteran’s benefits and the types of financial aid for which they qualify. They must be told what kind of student debt they may have upon graduation. In addition, the university must disclose the student outcomes of the degree programs. Schools must also:

  • have procedures that notify the prospective military student about their military benefits and other federal aid prior to enrollment and finalization of finance packages
  • stop aggressive recruiting practices, including misrepresentation of or incentives for programs
  • ensure programs are licensed and accredited before enrolling active or former military personnel
  • provide veterans with educational plans that include a plan of study and a projected completion date
  • maintain designated counseling services for finances and academic issues that arise
  • readmit any military personnel who were forced to temporarily leave school because of service requirements
  • agree to a refund policy when a vet must leave the program for duty reasons

If the Schools Don’t Comply

All schools in compliance with the program will be listed on the Department of Defense website. A list will also be made available allowing prospective military students to compare educational institutions side-by-side in these and other consumer issues.

The Principles of Excellence provides for a centralized complaint process to ensure violations are documented and handled consistently. The program also establishes processes share information across multiple state and federal agencies. Schools found in violation of the principles may also be subject to civil or criminal enforcement.

The Principles of Excellence help our active and former military service people use their military benefit in the most effective way to get a good education.