President Aoun urges Defense Dept. to restore military tuition assistance

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun urged the Depart­ment of Defense on Sunday to reverse its deci­sion to halt the pro­cessing of Mil­i­tary Tuition Assis­tance pro­gram appli­ca­tions in light of the gov­ern­ment shutdown.

Upon learning of this sit­u­a­tion, North­eastern took imme­diate action to con­tact its more than 100 active duty men and women cur­rently enrolled as stu­dents and assured them that the uni­ver­sity would pro­vide what­ever finan­cial assis­tance was needed to pre­vent a dis­rup­tion in their education.

Aoun, speaking on behalf of those active duty men and women, wrote a letter to Defense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel in which he expressed dismay over reports the uni­ver­sity heard late Friday evening from ser­vice mem­bers that some mil­i­tary branches have advised stu­dents not to enroll in classes begin­ning after Oct. 1, or to with­draw from their cur­rent programs.

“Our active duty mil­i­tary, Reserve, and National Guard mem­bers who put their lives on the line to pro­tect us deserve far better from their country than to be pre­vented from accessing the higher edu­ca­tion ben­e­fits they were promised,” Aoun wrote. “Surely DoD has existing capacity during the gov­ern­ment shut­down to review, process, and approve on a con­tin­gent basis pending TA appli­ca­tions that meet cur­rent pro­gram guide­lines. This seems all the more likely in light of recent action by Con­gress to pay civilian employees retroactively—a mea­sure Pres­i­dent Obama has pledged to sign into law.”

National ser­vice, Aoun noted, is deeply embedded in Northeastern’s values, pointing to its long­standing sup­port for the Army ROTC program—one of the oldest and largest in New England—and its strong ongoing research col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Defense Depart­ment and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity, among other fed­eral agen­cies. “We believe higher edu­ca­tion has an oblig­a­tion to con­tribute to the secu­rity of our nation, and to sup­port the women and men of the armed forces who serve and pro­tect us,” Aoun wrote.

“I respect­fully urge you to instruct the ser­vices to con­tinue pro­cessing TA appli­ca­tions imme­di­ately and to con­sider any alter­nate mech­a­nisms avail­able to you to ensure that no active duty per­sonnel will have their studies dis­rupted,” Aoun added.

Last Monday evening, Con­gress failed to reach an agree­ment on a budget for the 2014 fiscal year, trig­gering the first fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down since 1996. How­ever, North­eastern does not expect the shut­down to affect the rest of its stu­dents’ fed­eral finan­cial aid assis­tance. Pell Grants and funds from the Direct Loan pro­gram will be dis­bursed on schedule, and the majority of the U.S. Depart­ment of Education’s cus­tomer ser­vice con­tact cen­ters will remain open during the shutdown.

If the shut­down lasts longer than one week, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will not make new dis­burse­ments of campus-​​​​based aid programs—including the Work-​​​​Study and Perkins Loan pro­grams as well as the Sup­ple­mental Edu­ca­tional Oppor­tu­nity Grant—but North­eastern will have the finan­cial flex­i­bility to manage the short­fall for the remainder of the fall semester at the least.

Aoun’s action con­tinues his national lead­er­ship in addressing issues crit­ical to higher edu­ca­tion. He recently com­pleted his one-​​year team as board chair of the Amer­ican Council on Edu­ca­tion, and he serves on an aca­d­emic advi­sory council reporting directly to the home­land secu­rity sec­re­tary that exam­ines how uni­ver­si­ties can con­tribute to America’s national secu­rity efforts. He has also coor­di­nated efforts with other col­lege pres­i­dents to sup­port crit­ical research funding in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity budget, to pre­serve fed­eral finan­cial aid funding for stu­dents, and to urge cau­tion on reg­u­la­tion of unpaid intern­ships at the fed­eral level.

Media highlights on this issue include:

Boston Globe: NU president urges military to resume tuition aid

Boston Magazine: Northeastern is cutting active military members some slack

NECN:  Northeastern University steps up for military

WBUR: Northeastern University Presses Military To Resume Tuition Aid

Boston Business Journal: Northeastern’s Aoun pledges to make up aid for military students in shutdown

U.S. News:  Northeastern University helps military students pay for school during government shutdown