Update: Military Tuition Assistance Programs have been restored by Congress. Details to be released in the near future.
The sequestration is hitting the military hard, as defense officials are scrambling to make the government-imposed budget cuts. The good news is that military pay remains unaffected. The bad news is that many popular programs are under the chopping block. Included in the cuts are many discretionary spending items, including tuition assistance programs, morale welfare and recreation, base activities, and more. Operational spending and training are also being affected, with defense officials stating they will cut back in many areas across the board.
The sequestration is a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which placed automatic spending cuts across virtually every branch of the government, including military spending. At the time, Congress had intended to alter the Act to make cuts where they felt it was best. Unfortunately, no spending agreement was reached, and the automatic spending cuts were enforced.
Army Tuition Assistance Program Suspended
Military tuition assistance programs are one of the most popular benefits programs among active duty military members. In fact, education is one of the primary reasons many people join the military. These programs are also popular among military leadership who often encourage their troops to take classes in their off-duty time. A highly educated force is beneficial to operations.
Who will be affected? There are approximately 200,000 members of the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard currently using tuition assistance benefits. The Army Tuition Assistance Program will be shut down to new applications effective March 8, 2013, and will remain closed until the sequestration is lifted and the budget is finalized. The good news is that this will not affect any members of the Army who are currently participating in a Tuition Assistance Program. They will be able to complete courses in which they are currently enrolled. However, they will not be able to enroll in new courses through the Army Tuition Assistance Program until the sequestration has been lifted.
When will the suspension be lifted? Unfortunately, this is above even the Chief of Staff’s pay grade. The suspension will remain in place until the new budget has been passed, the sequestration has been lifted, and all programs have been reevaluated. It is possible the sequestration could be lifted soon (as in a matter of a couple months), or it could last through the remainder of the fiscal year. After that, it is anybody’s guess.
How can I pay for school? If you are attending courses on the Tuition Assistance program, you can continue your current course(s) until complete. After that, you will not be able to enroll in new courses through the Tuition Assistance Program until the budget issues have been resolved. Other ways to pay for college include using your GI Bill (Post-9/11 GI Bill or your MGIB), grants, military scholarships, or state tuition assistance if your state offers these benefits to Guard participants. One of the most popular grants many military members qualify for is the Pell Grant. If you are planning to apply for grants or scholarships, it is recommended to apply as soon as possible.
Stay tuned to www.goarmyed.com for updates.
Image credit: U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive)