Representatives from the UT System will meet with the U.S. Department of Defense within the next few weeks in an attempt to negotiate a deal to keep tuition funding for active UT military students.
The Texas National Guard sent letters to active military students June 7 warning them to prepare to self-fund their education since the Department of Defense will no longer grant tuition assistance for students who attend schools that bundle tuition rates into a single, flat rate. A flat rate combines tuition fees and also includes other expenses that do not only apply to tuition. Currently, both UT-Austin and UT-Arlington charge tuition by this method. The change will affect 46 students, 24 at Austin and 22 in Arlington. Veterans and their dependents who receive benefits from the GI Bill will not be affected. UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University has been working to reach an agreement with the DOD for about two weeks and has been in contact with the UT System for several months.
“Our goal is that no students who are members of the military will lose their funding at UT,” Susswein said. “We are absolutely committed to making sure that our soldiers, our veterans and our guardsmen can take advantage of financial aid at UT.”
The letter stated active military students who applied for tuition assistance before March 22 will receive their money, but applications submitted after that date will not be approved until an agreement is reached.
Susswein said he could not give any information on what a possible solution might look like.
“There are various ideas that have been discussed, but they have not been assessed enough for us to say what they are yet,” Susswein said. “But everyone is on board with getting this solved as quickly as possible.”
The new DOD criteria requires schools to itemize their tuition on a course-by-course basis to make sure students are using the funding only for tuition and not other expenses. Students who go to schools that do not meet this criteria will not receive tuition assistance.
According to the Texas National Guard’s Education Office, the DOD’s policy change went into effect March 22 and only impacts UT-Austin and UT-Arlington.
The letter said the Texas National Guard Education Office is hoping to see a solution reached between the UT System and the DOD by the end of June. The letter warned that students from neither school will be able to receive federal tuition assistance until a solution is reached.
“Be cognizant that there is no guarantee that a solution will be reached and you may end up self-funding your tuition assistance,” the letter stated.
Donnie Davis, a veteran and sociology senior, said he had confidence that the UT System and the DOD would reach an agreement. While Davis, who gets his tuition assistance through the GI Bill and will not be affected, said the University has become better at working with veterans and active duty soldiers than it used to be when he ended his military service in 2009.
“Since I have been here, a lot of changes have happened,” Davis said. “We were kind of thrown into the school and didn’t get a lot of help when I first got here. Just within the last year things have gotten better.”
Davis said the Student Veteran Center, which provides assistance by aiding with students’ graduation plans, is an example of how the University has been better accommodating to Veterans.
“We’re one of the first schools to have a [Student Veteran Center],” Davis said. “It would be quite a step back to pull back and say ‘veteran students are cool, but these active military students are going to lose their financial assistance.’”