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Federal law and regulations (and some state laws) protect active duty, guard, and reserve military personnel who are attending post-secondary education schools if they have to miss school due to military orders.

The federal law and regulation has the greatest protective impact on a "Veteran" who is now attending school who is also in the Guard or Reserves. The only time the federal law would not directly protect a veteran is when they are not in any reserve or active duty military status. Knowing about the law, however, might encourage a person, veteran or not, to join the military in some capacity, knowing that many disruptions to one’s education due to military orders are now ameliorated to some degree.

In 2010, the Department of Education published regulations implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The regulations, 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) section 668.18, went into effect July 1, 2010.  The law is codified under 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1091c

The law and regulations accord the post-secondary education student whose education was interrupted by voluntary or involuntary military service the right to readmission to the educational program. These requirements apply to any educational institution that participates in title IV federal student financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program.

This applies to the student who is a member of the National Guard or Reserves and who is called to active duty for over 30 days involuntarily or volunteers for an extended period of active duty. It applies to the student who starts an educational program (often part-time) while on active duty and who then must interrupt the educational program because of a deployment or a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It also applies to a student who interrupts his or her education to enlist in a regular component of the armed forces. Such a person is entitled, as a matter of federal law, to resume the educational program later, either during or after the person's active duty service.

NOTE:  Presidential Executive Order 13607 Expanded Coverage of 34 CFR 668.18 To Include Mobilizations of 30 Days or Fewer. See below for additional information. 

EXTRA NOTE FOR RESERVE AND GUARD PERSONNEL: There may be instances where your active military service due to its short duration (or how mobilized for National Guard personnel) does not receive Federal education protection.  In those cases, check to see what laws your state government has on this as they often provide additional protections. Some states even give the service member the ability to sue the school for violating the state’s law. There are currently 31 states plus Puerto Rico that have their own laws in this area.

For additional information see: 

Policy Letters, Federal Law, State Laws, and Governing Policies from now defunct Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) web site. SOC was established in 1972 to help meet the voluntary higher education needs of servicemembers.  SOC was a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor supporting government-sponsored education programs funded through a DoD-managed contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).  The contract ended in 2017.  Captured here is much of what used to be on the SOC web site. 


Reserve Organization of America (ROA) Law Review Number 21038,  July 2021: Where to Find Federal and State Laws Online that Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service   


Reserve Officers Association (ROA) LAW REVIEW LR No. 17019March 2017:  Presidential Executive Order 13607 Establishes Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, April 27, 2012: Expanded Coverage of 34 CFR 668.18 To Include Mobilizations of 30 Days or Fewer


ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15039, May 2015: Federal Law Protects Students Called to the Colors during a Semester, But it Does not Help the Student who Must Miss a few Days for Drills or Annual Training

 ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15038, May 2015: Federal and State Laws Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service   (was really an update to No.13070)

 ROA LAW REVIEW No. 13071May 2013: New Washington State Law Protects Students who Are Members of the National Guard or Reserve

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 13070, May 2013: Federal and State Laws Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service   (was updated under No. 15038 so 13070 is redundant now)

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 1052 is now No. 10052, – written in 2010: Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions - Details Regarding the Department of Education (DOE) Regulations Implementing the New Law on Mandatory Readmission of Mobilized Reserve and Guard and Active Duty Students   

 See also U.S. Department of Education PowerPoint  Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions and  Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional Readmission Requirements for Servicemembers