Laws & Guidance HIGHER EDUCATION
Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional Readmission Requirements for Servicemembers

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  1. What do the readmission requirements do?
  2. What is the purpose of the readmission requirements?
  3. Where did the readmission requirements come from?
  4. When did the readmission requirements become effective?
  5. Which institutions of higher education must comply with the readmission requirements?
  6. To whom do the protections of the readmission requirements apply?
  7. Do the protections of the readmission requirements apply to servicemembers who must be absent from class for a short period of time to attend training?
  8. Are there any conditions a servicemember must meet to qualify?
  9. What are the requirements for the notice of absence for service?
  10. Are there any circumstances under which advance notice of service is not required?
  11. How is a period of absence from the institution before, after, or in between performing service treated in determining the cumulative length of a servicemember's absences from the institution by reason of service?
  12. Are there any types of service that do not count toward the five-year cumulative length of absences?
  13. What are the requirements for notice of intent to return?
  14. What are the time limits for providing notice of intent to return?
  15. Does a servicemember who fails to provide notice of intent to return within the applicable time limit automatically forfeit eligibility for readmission to an institution?
  16. What does it mean to "promptly readmit" a servicemember?
  17. What does it mean to readmit a servicemember with the same academic status?
  18. What if the servicemember is not prepared to resume the program where he or she left off, or will not be able to complete the program?
  19. Are there any circumstances under which an institution is not required to readmit a servicemember?
  20. What if readmitting a servicemember conflicts with State law? For example, what if admitting the servicemember to the same program attended prior to serving would cause a class to exceed the maximum enrollment level set by the State?
  21. Are there any circumstances under which a servicemember's eligibility for readmission terminates?
  22. How can servicemembers and schools get more information?

1. What do the readmission requirements do?

They require institutions of higher education to promptly readmit with the same academic status a servicemember who was previously admitted to the institution but who did not attend, or did not continue to attend, because of service in the uniformed services.

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2. What is the purpose of the readmission requirements?

The purpose of the readmission requirements is to minimize the disruption to the lives of servicemembers, allowing them to return to an institution of higher education without penalty for having left because of their service.

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3. Where did the readmission requirements come from?

Congress added the requirements to the law in 2008 (section 484C of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, or 20 U.S.C. 1091c). The U.S. Department of Education published regulations that further implemented the law on October 29, 2009. Many parts of the law and regulations are based on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) (38 U.S.C. 4301-4334) which establishes the process for servicemembers to return to employment after serving on active duty. The final regulations can be accessed at http://www.ifap.ed.gov/fregisters/FR102909GeneralandNonLoanProgrammatic
FinalRule.html
. The United States Code (U.S.C.) can be accessed at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionUScode.action?collectionCode=USCODE.

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4. When did the readmission requirements become effective?

The law went into effect August 14, 2008 (the day the law was enacted). The regulations went into effect July 1, 2010. The requirements are effective for readmissions of servicemembers on or after those dates.

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5. Which institutions of higher education must comply with the readmission requirements?

These requirements apply to any institution of higher education that participates in a Title IV Federal student financial aid program, such as the Pell Grant Program, Stafford Loan Program, or Federal Work-Study Program. For a list of all Title IV Federal student financial aid programs, go to the Department's "Student Aid on the Web" web site at http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/funding.jsp#01 and look under the heading "Federal Student Aid Programs."

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6. To whom do the protections of the readmission requirements apply?

The readmission requirements apply to servicemembers who perform service in the uniformed services, whether voluntary or involuntary, in the Armed Forces, including service as a member of the National Guard or Reserve, on active duty, active duty for training, or full-time National Guard duty under Federal authority (but not State authority), for a period of more than 30 consecutive days under a call or order to active duty of more than 30 consecutive days.

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7. Do the protections of the readmission requirements apply to servicemembers who must be absent from class for a short period of time to attend training?

No. The readmission requirements apply to servicemembers who have completely withdrawn from an institution for a period of service of more than 30 consecutive days. They do not apply to how an institution handles a servicemember’s absence from class to attend training.

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8. Are there any conditions a servicemember must meet to qualify?

Yes. An otherwise eligible servicemember qualifies if:

  1. The institution is given notice of the servicemember’s absence for service.
  2. The cumulative length of absences from the institution by reason of service does not exceed five years.
  3. The servicemember gives notice of his or her intent to return by the applicable time limit.
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9. What are the requirements for the notice of absence for service?

Notice of absence for service must be provided by the servicemember or an appropriate officer of the Armed Forces or official of the Department of Defense—that is, a commissioned, warrant, or noncommissioned officer authorized to give such notice. The notice of absence for service may be oral or written. It must be provided to an office designated by the institution and must be provided as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances. An institution must designate one or more offices that a servicemember may contact to provide such notification. An institution may not require that the notice follow any particular format. An institution may not establish a rule for timeliness (for example, a "brightline" deadline for submission); timeliness must be determined by the facts in a particular case. The notice does not need to indicate whether the servicemember intends to return to the institution.

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10. Are there any circumstances under which advance notice of service is not required?

Yes. Advance notice is not required if it is precluded by military necessity (for example, a mission, operation, exercise, or requirement that is classified; or a pending or ongoing mission, operation, exercise, or requirement that may be compromised or otherwise adversely affected by public knowledge). If advance notice was not given and was not precluded by military necessity, the servicemember or appropriate officer of the Armed Forces or official of the Department of Defense may submit an attestation when seeking readmission that the servicemember performed service that necessitated the servicemember's absence.

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11. How is a period of absence from the institution before, after, or in between performing service treated in determining the cumulative length of a servicemember's absences from the institution by reason of service?

The cumulative length of a servicemember's absences from the institution for service includes only the time the servicemember spent actually performing service in the uniformed services. A period of absence from the institution before, after, or in between performing service does not count (for example, the period between completing service and returning to the institution).

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12. Are there any types of service that do not count toward the five-year cumulative length of absences?

Yes. The five-year cumulative length of absences does not include service--

  • Beyond five years to complete an initial period of obligated service
  • During which servicemember was unable to obtain orders releasing from period of service before the expiration of the five-year period, through no fault of the servicemember
  • Performed by a member of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard and Reserves) who is ordered or retained on active duty under one of the following types of duty:
    • 10 U.S.C. 688 (involuntary active duty by a military retiree);
    • 10 U.S.C. 12301(a) (involuntary active duty in wartime);
    • 10 U.S.C. 12301(g) (retention on active duty while in captive status);
    • 10 U.S.C. 12302 (involuntary active duty during a national emergency for up to 24 months);
    • 10 U.S.C. 12304 (involuntary active duty for an operational mission for up to 270 days);
    • 10 U.S.C. 12305 (involuntary retention on active duty of a critical person during time of crisis or other specific conditions);
    • 14 U.S.C. 331 (involuntary active duty by retired Coast Guard officer);
    • 14 U.S.C. 332 (voluntary active duty by retired Coast Guard officer);
    • 14 U.S.C. 359 (involuntary active duty by retired Coast Guard enlisted member);
    • 14 U.S.C. 360 (voluntary active duty by retired Coast Guard enlisted member);
    • 14 U.S.C. 367 (involuntary retention of Coast Guard enlisted member on active duty); or
    • 14 U.S.C. 712 (involuntary active duty by Coast Guard Reserve member for natural or man-made disasters).
  • Performed by a member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserve, who is order to or retained on active duty (other than for training)
    • under any provision of law because of a war or national emergency declared by the President or Congress
    • In support, as determined by the Secretary concerned, of an operational mission for which personnel have been ordered to active duty under section 12304 of Title 10, U.S.C.
  • Performed by a member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserve, who is
    • Ordered to active duty in support, as determined by the Secretary concerned, of a critical mission or requirement of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard or Reserve)
    • Called into Federal service as a member of the National Guard under Chapter 15 of Title 10 U.S.C., or section 12406 of Title 10 U.S.C., (i.e., called to respond to an invasion, danger of invasion, rebellion, danger of rebellion, insurrection, or the inability of the President with regular forces to execute the laws of the United States).
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13. What are the requirements for notice of intent to return?

Notice of intent to return must be provided by the servicemember. It may be oral or written and must be provided to an office designated by the institution. An institution must designate one or more offices that a servicemember may contact to provide such notification. An institution may not require that the notice follow any particular format. In addition to providing notice, the servicemember must provide documentation to establish that--

  • He or she has not exceeded the cumulative five-year limit on absences from the institution; and
  • His or her eligibility for readmission has not been terminated (see Q&A21).

Documents that may be used for this purpose include:

  • DD (Department of Defense) 214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.
  • Copy of duty orders prepared by the facility where the orders were fulfilled carrying an endorsement indicating completion of the described service.
  • Letter from the commanding officer of a Personnel Support Activity or someone of comparable authority.
  • Certificate of completion from military training school.
  • Discharge certificate showing character of service.
  • Copy of extracts from payroll documents showing periods of service.
  • Letter from National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Team Leader or Administrative Officer verifying dates and times of NDMS training or Federal activation.

The types of documents necessary will vary from case to case. Not all of these documents are available or necessary in every instance. An institution may not delay or attempt to avoid readmission of a servicemember by demanding documentation that does not exist, or is not readily available, at the time of readmission.

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14. What are the time limits for providing notice of intent to return?

Notice of intent to return must be provided not later than three years after the completion of the period of service. For a servicemember who is hospitalized for or convalescing from an illness or injury incurred in, or aggravated during, the performance of service, notice must be provided not later than two years after the end of the period that is necessary for recovery from such illness or injury.

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15. Does a servicemember who fails to provide notice of intent to return within the applicable time limit automatically forfeit eligibility for readmission to an institution?

No. A servicemember who fails to provide notice of intent to return within the applicable time period does not automatically forfeit eligibility for readmission to an institution, but is subject to the institution’s established leave of absence policy and general practices.

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16. What does it mean to "promptly readmit" a servicemember?

To promptly readmit a servicemember means that an institution must readmit the servicemember into the next class or classes in the servicemember's program beginning after the servicemember provides notice of his or her intent to reenroll, unless the servicemember requests a later date of readmission, or unusual circumstances require the institution to admit the servicemember at a later date. For example, a later date of admission would be justified if an institution must make efforts to help the servicemember become prepared to resume the program, and such efforts would not be completed in time for the servicemember to begin the next class.

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17. What does it mean to readmit a servicemember with the same academic status?

To readmit a servicemember with the same academic status means that the institution readmits the servicemember:

  • To the same program, unless the servicemember requests or agrees to admission to another program (if the servicemember’s program is no longer offered, the institution must admit the servicemember to the program that is the most similar);
  • At the same enrollment status (for example, full-time), unless the servicemember requests or agrees to a different enrollment status;
  • With the same number of credit hours or clock hours completed, unless the servicemember is admitted to a different program and the hours are not transferable;
  • With same academic standing (for example, satisfactory academic progress status);
  • For the first academic year, with the same tuition and fee charges as when the servicemember left, unless military benefits will pay the increase, but never more than the institution is charging other students; and
  • For subsequent academic years or for a different program, by assessing tuition and fee charges that are no more than the institution is charging other students.
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18. What if the servicemember is not prepared to resume the program where he or she left off, or will not be able to complete the program?

The institution must make reasonable efforts at no extra cost to the servicemember to help him or her become prepared, or to enable him or her to complete the program including, but not limited to, providing refresher courses and/or allowing the servicemember to retake a pretest. Reasonable efforts are actions that do not place an undue hardship on the institution. An undue hardship exists if an action requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of the overall financial resources of the institution and the impact otherwise of such action on the operation of the institution.

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19. Are there any circumstances under which an institution is not required to readmit a servicemember?

Yes. An institution is not required to readmit a servicemember if it determines, after reasonable efforts, that the servicemember is not prepared to resume the program at the point where he or she left off, or is unable to complete the program. In addition, an institution is not required to readmit a servicemember if it determines that there are no reasonable efforts it can take to prepare the servicemember to resume at the point where he or she left off, or to enable the servicemember to complete the program. The institution carries the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the servicemember is not prepared to resume the program with the same academic status at the point where the servicemember left off, or that the servicemember will not be able to complete the program.

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20. What if readmitting a servicemember conflicts with State law? For example, what if admitting the servicemember to the same program attended prior to serving would cause a class to exceed the maximum enrollment level set by the State?

These readmission requirements supersede any State law (including any local law or ordinance), contract, agreement, policy, plan, practice, or other matter that reduces, limits, or eliminates in any manner any right or benefit provided by these requirements for the period of enrollment during which the servicemember resumes attendance, and continues to do so as long as the institution is unable to comply with such requirements through other means. Thus, an institution must readmit an eligible servicemember even if doing so would cause a class to exceed the maximum enrollment level set by the State. However, these requirements do not supersede, nullify, or diminish any Federal or State law (including any local law or ordinance), contract, agreement, policy, plan, practice, or other matter that establishes an individual's right or benefit that is MORE beneficial or in addition to these rules.

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21. Are there any circumstances under which a servicemember's eligibility for readmission terminates?

Yes. A servicemember's eligibility for readmission terminates upon the occurrence of:

  • A dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.
  • A dismissal of a commissioned officer permitted under section 1161(a) of Title 10 U.S.C. by sentence of a general court martial, in commutation of a sentence of a general court-martial, or, in time of war, by order of the President.
  • A dropping of a commissioned officer from the rolls pursuant to section 1161(b), Title 10 U.S.C. due to absence without authority for at least three months, separation by reason of a sentence to confinement adjudged by a court-martial, or a sentence to confinement in a Federal or State penitentiary or correctional institution.
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22. How can servicemembers and schools get more information?

For additional information, please contact Wendy Macias, Office of Postsecondary Education, at Wendy.Macias@ed.gov or 202-502-7526.

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