Military tuition assistance program in limbo at BYU

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19 2013 6:30 p.m. MST

An honor guard from the BYU Air Force ROTC marches in a procession to start Veteran's Day ceremonies at the Orem Cemetery.

Jason Olson

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PROVO — Military reservists studying at BYU may lose thousands of dollars in tuition credits if the university does not sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Defense over the Military Tuition Assistance Program.

“I’ve always respected our country’s servicemen, and so I believe that my military service is one of the defining points about my own self-nature,” said Adam Parker, who serves in the U.S. Army Reserve. “It’s part of who I am, that I serve in America’s Army.”

The California native also plans to graduate from BYU next April. The $4,500 tuition assistance credit nearly covers his tuition.

"Being a member of the (LDS) Church attending BYU, it covers all but $200 per year,” he said.

But, unless BYU signs a new Memorandum of Understanding put out by the Department of Defense in December, Parker and potentially dozens of other students will lose that money.

"It's definitely significant,” he said. “First off, it was one of the influential factors in my enlistment."

He said he feels betrayed and there’s mistrust because the tuition credit is part of the agreement he has with the Army and the university.

"When my recruiter explained to me that one of the benefits associated with my contract is that every soldier is entitled to a $4,500 per year tuition assistance grant, I assumed that that is something I am entitled to as part of my service."

BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii both signed the memorandum; so did the University of Utah, Utah State University and more than 3,600 other institutions of higher education.

According to the DOD, the changes are "designed to enhance resources and support available to service members and veterans using military tuition assistance."

Parker does not know what the university objects to in the memorandum and BYU won't elaborate.

In a prepared statement, BYU said: "We have identified certain concerns with the new program requirements and communicated those to the Department of Defense. The memorandum is still under review by university administrators. When a decision is made, the university will inform participating students."

Parker could get the tuition assistance credit if he went to another university that has already signed the letter of understanding, but he doesn’t plan to do that.

“It’s definitely not worth it to change universities,” he said. “It’s unreasonable.”

He's also not planning on leaving the military.

The Department of Defense recommends all soldiers check to see if their school has signed the memorandum by going to www.dodmou.com. If a school is not listed, they should contact their school to see if they intend to sign the contract. If the school does not intend to sign the contract, the soldier is advised to contact their local Army education office to discuss options in finding another school that meets their educational goals and is eligible for the tuition assistance.

For the nearest Army education center, go to www.GoArmyEd.com.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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