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Federal and State Laws Protect Military Students on Orders

Posted By Cdr. Wayne L. Johnson, JAGC, Navy (Ret.), Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Federal law and regulations (in some states) protect active duty, guard and Reserve military personnel who are attending post-secondary education schools if they must miss school due to military orders.

Federal law and regulation have the greatest protective impact on a “veteran” who is now attending school and who is also in the Guard or Reserves. The only time the federal law would not directly protect a veteran is when the veteran is not in any reserve or active duty military status.  (It’s conceivable that knowledge of the law might encourage a person, veteran or not, to join the military in some capacity, knowing that many disruptions to one’s education due to service on military orders would now be ameliorated to some degree.

In 2010, the Department of Education published regulations implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.  The regulations, 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) section 668.18, went into effect July 1, 2010.  The law is codified under 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1091c 

The law and regulations accord the post-secondary education student whose education was interrupted by voluntary or involuntary military service the right to readmission to the educational program. These requirements apply to any educational institution that participates in title IV federal student financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program.

This applies to the student who is a member of the National Guard or Reserve and who is called to active duty involuntarily or volunteers for an extended period of active duty. It applies to the student who starts an educational program (often part-time) while on active duty and who then must interrupt the educational program because of a deployment or a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It also applies to a student who interrupts his or her education to enlist in a regular component of the armed forces. Such a person is entitled, as a matter of federal law, to resume the educational program later, either during or after the person’s active duty service.

EXTRA NOTE FOR RESERVE AND GUARD PERSONNEL:  There may be instances where your active military service due to its short duration (or, for National Guard personnel, how one is mobilized) does not receive federal education protection -- see the April 2012 Executive Order below.  In those cases, check your state government laws, as they often provide additional protections. Some states even give the service member the ability to sue the school for violating the state’s law.  Currently 21 states have their own laws in this area:  Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges

Policy Letters, Federal Law, State Laws, and Governing Policies   SOC was established in 1972 to help meet the voluntary higher education needs of servicemembers.  SOC is a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor supporting government-sponsored education programs funded through a DoD-managed contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). 

U.S. Department of Education

Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions

Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional Readmission Requirements for Servicemembers

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)

ROA LAW REVIEW  No. 17019, March 2017:  Presidential Executive Order 13607 Establishes Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, April 27, 2012: Expanded Coverage of 34 CFR 668.18 To Include Mobilizations of 30 Days or Fewer 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15039, May 2015:  Federal Law Protects Students Called to the Colors during a Semester, But it Does not Help the Student who Must Miss a few Days for Drills or Annual Training

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15038, May 2015:  Federal and State Laws Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service  (updates No. 13070)

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 13071, May 2013:  New Washington State Law Protects Students who Are Members of the National Guard or Reserve 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 10052March 2017 (previously No. 1052):  Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions -- Details Regarding the Department of Education (DOE) Regulations Implementing the New Law on Mandatory Readmission of Mobilized Reserve and Guard and Active Duty Students

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