DOD Education Benefits:

Further Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Tuition Assistance Program

GAO-11-389T: Published: Mar 2, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 2011.

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This testimony discusses the Department of Defense's (DOD) oversight of its Military Tuition Assistance (TA) Program. In fiscal year 2010, the TA Program provided $531 million in tuition assistance to approximately 302,000 service members who elected to pursue off-duty postsecondary education. DOD offers these benefits to service members in order to help them fulfill their academic goals and enhance their professional development. Program oversight for voluntary education programs is the responsibility of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. In addition, the military services are responsible for establishing, maintaining, operating, and implementing the programs at 350 education centers on military installations worldwide. Education centers are managed by an education services officer (ESO) and staff, such as education guidance counselors. This testimony discusses (1) DOD's oversight of schools receiving TA funds and (2) the extent to which DOD coordinates with accrediting agencies and the Department of Education (Education) in its oversight activities. This testimony is based on GAO's recent report, titled DOD Education Benefits: Increased Oversight of Tuition Assistance Program Is Needed. Our report and testimony are based on work we performed between August 2010 and February 2011.

In summary, DOD is taking steps to enhance its oversight of schools receiving TA funds. However, we found that areas for improvements remain. Specifically, DOD could benefit from a systematic, risk-based oversight approach, increased accountability in its education quality review process, and a centralized system to track complaints. We also found that DOD's limited coordination with accrediting agencies and Education may hinder its oversight efforts. We make several recommendations to DOD that are intended to improve its oversight of schools receiving TA funds. DOD agreed with our recommendations.

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