Choosing a School Based on Principles of Excellence

If you’re looking for a place to pursue or continue your education, you’ve probably visited the GI Bill website. After all, you’ve earned your military education benefits and don’t want to squander them on a mediocre school or burn through them too quickly.

You may have noticed something called the VA Principles of Excellence. These are guidelines, created by executive order in 2012 for schools who receive Federal funds. On-the-job training programs, apprenticeship programs, foreign schools, high schools, residency and internship programs and schools that do not charge tuition/fees are not required to comply.

The executive order was created in response to service member complaints that schools were aggressively marketing low quality programs just to gain access to military education money. In response, the Principles of Excellence were created. They’re administered by the DoD, VA, Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

 Schools that agree to participate in the Principles of Excellence:

  • Provide all military students, family members and veterans with a personalized outline of the total cost of their educational program. This includes pre-enrollment program costs, student debt estimates, and financial aid options.
  • Supply military and veteran students with an academic plan.
  • Accommodate service members and reservists who are absent as a result of service requirements.
  • Assign academic and financial advisor contacts.
  • Secure accreditation for all new programs before opening them for student enrollment.
  • Offer prorated tuition refunds for service members, reservists and family members who must stop attending school because of service obligations.
  • Cease aggressive, misleading or otherwise fraudulent recruiting tactics.


So far, more than 6,000 schools have signed on in agreement to the Principles of Excellence. The Principles of Excellence program is more than a great tool to help you make your education decision – it’s designed to help protect service members, veterans and military families from fraud and deceptive practices.

Your future is too valuable to invest your hard-earned benefits in anything other than a first-rate education. The GI Bill website has a map and list of participating schools – if your school isn’t listed as a Principles of Excellence program, talk to your financial aid official and ask them to get with the program.

Ready to find a school? The School Finder will match you with schools that offer the programs you would like to pursue.


Leave a comment