October 6, 2013
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 202301
Dear Secretary Hagel:
On behalf of more than 100 active duty women and men currently enrolled at Northeastern University, I respectfully request that you reverse the Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to halt the processing of Military Tuition Assistance (TA) program applications in light of the government shutdown.
We are extremely dismayed by reports from service members that some branches of the service have advised students not to enroll in classes beginning after October 1st, or to withdraw from their current programs. Our active duty military, Reserve, and National Guard members who put their lives on the line to protect us deserve far better from their country than to be prevented from accessing the higher education benefits they were promised.
Surely DoD has existing capacity during the government shutdown to review, process, and approve on a contingent basis pending TA applications that meet current program guidelines. This seems all the more likely in light of recent action by Congress to pay civilian employees retroactively—a measure President Obama has pledged to sign into law.
National service is deeply embedded in Northeastern’s values, as evidenced by our United States Army ROTC program—one of the oldest and largest in New England—and strong ongoing research collaboration with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, among other federal agencies. We believe higher education has an obligation to contribute to the security of our nation, and to support the women and men of the armed forces who serve and protect us.
To that end, Northeastern has announced that no active duty member of the armed forces will be responsible for tuition charges incurred as a result of the shutdown for the time being. I respectfully urge you to instruct the services to continue processing TA applications immediately and to consider any alternate mechanisms available to you to ensure that no active duty personnel will have their studies disrupted.
Thank you for your consideration and attention to this vital issue. I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with you.
Joseph E. Aoun