Complaint system empowers students, strengthens schools

18 Feb 2014 | Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel

The Department of Defense launched a new postsecondary education complaint system to help protect tuition assistance and military spouse career advancement account users from educational institutions with unfair or deceptive practices, Feb. 6.


The new system is based on an executive order by President Barack Obama, which establishes “principles of excellence” for educational institutions to follow when serving military members, veterans and their families. The complaint system is an interagency effort run by the Department of Defense, with the help of the Free Trade Commission and the Department of Justice.


“The complaint system is a tool meant to empower military tuition assistance, and military spouse career advancement account benefit recipients,” said Dawn Bilodeau, the chief of voluntary education for the DOD. “This allows them to provide information on potentially unfair or deceptive practices that they’ve experienced with educational institutions in the   use of their benefits. This effort is [designed to] consolidate and provide a comprehensive tool for students to provide feedback, not only about the programs that their enrolling in, but the way that they’re being treated by educational institutions.”


Before the complaint system, people who had negative experiences with an educational institution would seek help from their local education center or service representative. Some of the issues included false claims about degree programs, unsolicited phone calls or emails and misleading statements about accreditation at the institution.


“The pooling of all of those complaints can also help inform other students who are going to those universities, so that they can make informed choices about where they want to go to school and what programs they want to enroll in,” Bilodeau said.


The system also provides the federal government with a way to identify and take action against educational institutions exhibiting in misleading, deceptive or predatory types of behavior, if necessary.  


According to the DOD, an estimated 280,000 students use tuition assistance and military spouse career advancement account benefits annually. The programs fund almost 870,000 courses at educational institutions.


“With the use of this system, we can better help the service members aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in their search for a great school suited to their needs,” said David Ellard, the education service officer for the Tri-Command.