Nation Reacts to Suspension of Military Tuition Assistance Programs

By Catherine Groux
Posted March 18, 2013 10:00 AM

Lawmakers, colleges and service members have spoken out about sequester cuts.
Lawmakers, colleges and service members have spoken out about sequester cuts.

Recent sequester cuts have forced the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force to suspend their Tuition Assistance Programs, which gave active-duty military members up to $4,500 per year to work toward a high school diploma, certificate or college degree. While these individuals can still take advantage of financial aid like scholarships, federal grants and the G.I. Bill, many individuals are concerned that slashing Tuition Assistance Programs will limit military members' access to higher education.

Lawmakers Speak Out

Currently, several members of Congress are rallying to reinstate Tuition Assistance Programs, Fox News reports. Recently, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina introduced an amendment that would reestablish the program for military members.

The Senators argued that not only does the suspension of Tuition Assistance Programs hurt individual service members, but it could also harm the military as a whole. They argued that, particularly for the Army, tuition assistance is a major motivator for people to enlist in the first place.

"While I recognize that sequestration is forcing the Department of Defense to make difficult budgetary decisions, I believe that denying educational opportunities to our service members is the wrong way to find savings, and I fear this decision will inhibit the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps from developing the highly skilled forces they need to succeed in this current environment," Hagan wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earlier this week.

Colleges Lend a Helping Hand

Several colleges are striving to bolster the assistance they give active-duty military members in light of sequester cuts. Inside Higher Ed reports that institutions like Troy University, Southern New Hampshire University, Touro University, Endicott College, Drury University and Park University have launched new scholarships to help servicemen and women pay for college.

Southern New Hampshire University in particular stated that it will offer scholarships to all active-duty service members to help ease the sting of sequester cuts.

''We are dismayed by the recent decision by the Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to cut tuition assistance benefits to active-duty U.S. armed service members," said Dr. Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, in a press release. "Brought on by congressional budget shortfalls and sequestration, these cuts hurt those who continue to sacrifice so much to support and defend our country.''

Service Members Respond

Of course, no one is more affected by the suspension of Tuition Assistance Programs than active-duty service members. Many of these individuals have spoken out about their disappointment with the cuts and are now concerned about how they will pay for college.

One of these service members is Evan Barre, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Central Arkansas, KTHV reports. Barre was relying on Federal Tuition Assistance from the National Guard to help him earn his bachelor's degree, but due to sequester cuts, he could lose about $2,300 per year for tuition.

"I would say having college paid for probably made up about 80 or 90% of the reason I joined," Barre told KTHV. "I feel like they're so busy bickering that they can't decide on what they're going to do, and it's leaving us high and dry."

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