Military News

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Tuition Assistance Tool Attuned to Troops’ Educational Needs



By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 – The Defense Department continues to invest in its service members and has introduced a new online informational tool tailored to their unique school programs and educational needs, the Defense Department’s chief of voluntary education said in a DoD news interview this week.

Dawn Bilodeau discussed a new online tool called “Tuition Assistance DECIDE.”

“Tuition Assistance DECIDE, or TA DECIDE, as we like to call it,” she said, “is a tool tailored to the unique needs of our service members.” It’s designed to support their decision-making in areas such as selecting schools or choosing programs to enroll in, she explained. It came online April 17.

Informing Decisions

“Our military students tend to be part-time students -- they’re not going to school full-time,” Bilodeau said, “and Tuition Assistance DECIDE is really designed to enable them to search through schools that service members are attending just like them.” TA DECIDE can provide information on everything, Bilodeau said, from completion rates -- likelihood of completing a course -- to cost or graduation rates from a particular school.

“The benefit of using this particular tool is that you know that the schools that are in there are trustworthy, because we vetted them,” she said. “They’ve signed an agreement with Department of Defense that they’re going to adhere to certain principles of excellence.”

TA DECIDE is accessible at http://www.dodmou.com, the website for the memorandum of understanding that participating education institutions sign. “You can click on ‘Tuition Assistance DECIDE,’ and it will take you right to the tool,” Bilodeau said.

A Comparison Tool

Bilodeau described TA DECIDE as an informative tool for comparing more than 2,600 schools that are eligible for tuition assistance benefits.

“It allows service members to search by a whole host of parameters,” she said. For example, Bilodeau explained, service members interested in an associate’s degree or in a certain program such as accounting or cybersecurity can search by those filters and come up with schools that meet the criteria they see as important.

Tailored to Unique Needs

Bilodeau emphasized TA DECIDE is really tailored toward the unique needs of DoD students. Though the GI Bill Comparison Tool includes 33,000 education and training providers, she said, all of those schools have not agreed to the Defense Department’s terms, as the schools in TA DECIDE have.

While Defense Department officials are “really happy” with the launch of this new tool, Bilodeau said, there’s always room for improvement.

“We definitely want to hear feedback from all service members, as well as counselors or even our school partners that are in the field and other federal interagency partners,” she said. “We do have some planned enhancements to make it better, but we’re always willing to hear some new thoughts as well.”

Valuable Tool for Counselors as Well

Bilodeau, who has more than 15 years of experience in voluntary education, said she would have loved to have had the TA DECIDE Tool as a counselor in the field.

“It allows you to have a one-on-one conversation with that service member about their unique needs,” she said, noting that it helps in navigating the vast amount of information on the Web about schools and universities.

Every year, Bilodeau noted, 300,000 service members go to school using tuition assistance. “Can you imagine having a tool that helps them to facilitate those conversations?” she added.

“The great thing about this tool,” she said, “is it takes and leverages information that is publicly available from federal entities -- recognized sources, we like to say -- so service members can feel confident the information they’re looking at is trustworthy and is the facts.”

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