Educational institutions are increasing their recruiting efforts towards members of the military community, however, Servicemembers enrolled in postsecondary programs of higher education lack adequate protections when activated for military service.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the federal law that protects Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ civilian employment rights, is often cited in response to Student Servicemembers’ concerns with missing classes, presentations, or exams due to military obligations. However, USERRA does not protect students; it protects employees. While re-enrollment protections are provided to military students activated for military service, Student Veterans and Servicemembers lack federal causes of action, like those provided under USERRA, to protect them while activated for military service. Lacking a private right of action prevents the Department of Justice from advocating on behalf of military and Student Veterans if re-enrollment is denied. Furthermore, readmission requirements apply only to Servicemembers withdrawn for a period of service of more than 30 consecutive days. This requirement excludes Student Servicemembers who are required to attend short-term military training of 30 days or less.
The absence of federal law potentially affects over 900,000 postsecondary Student Servicemembers. The attempts that have been made to enact protections have failed to establish a private right of action for Student Servicemembers to bring against their respective institutions of higher education.
The Veterans Education Project is calling for the removal of “30 consecutive days” from 20 U.S.C, 1091c and a mandated commitment from institutions to readmit Student Servicemembers regardless of length of service. We are also calling for institutions to administer the necessary resources to Student Servicemembers to help ensure their rights are protected.