Army suspends tuition assistance program for troops
Empty classrooms like this one on Kleber Kaserne, Germany, may be the new norm as the Army has suspended its tuition assistance program, citing fiscal challenges. The Army’s announcement follows a similar message affecting the Marine Corps.
|JOSHUA L. DEMOTTS/STARS AND STRIPES|
Stars and Stripes
- Marines halt new enrollments in tuition assistance programs; other services could follow
Student vets furious over tuition assistance cuts
Stars and Stripes’ sequestration coverage
WIESBADEN, Germany — The Army announced Friday it is suspending its tuition assistance program for soldiers newly enrolling in classes due to sequestration and other budgetary pressures.
“This suspension is necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration,” Paul Prince, an army personnel spokesman at the Pentagon, wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “The Army understands the impacts of this action and will re-evaluate should the budgetary situation improve.”
The Army’s announcement follows a similar move by the Marine Corps.
The Army’s tuition assistance program was available for troops to complete a high school diploma, certificate program or college or master’s degree. Under the program, the Army paid 100 percent of the tuition and authorized fees charged by a school up to established limits of $250 per semester hour or credit hour or up to $4,500 per fiscal year.
“The Secretary of the Army has approved the suspension of Tuition Assistance effective 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) on March 8, 2013. Soldiers will no longer be permitted to submit new requests for Tuition Assistance,” read a statement posted Friday on the GoArmyEd.com website. “However, Soldiers currently enrolled in courses approved for Tuition Assistance are not affected, and will be allowed to complete current course enrollment(s).
“This change in the Army Tuition Assistance program applies to all Soldiers, including the Army National Guard and Army Reserves,” the statement read.
Student Veterans of America on Friday blasted the decision, saying the move could hurt troops’ post military careers and leave them in debt.
“It is utterly unacceptable that the first casualties of Congress’ inability to act are education benefits for servicemembers,” Michael Dakduk, executive director of SVA, said in a statement. “The decisions of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army set a dangerous precedent that educating our nation’s servicemembers and veterans is an expendable option.”
Prior to the official announcement, messages about the suspension were circulating on various Facebook pages and on University of Maryland University College Europe’s webpage.
Frustrations were evident on GoArmyEd’s Facebook page on Friday.
“Wouldn’t one think that GoArmyEd would have sent a mass e-mail to everyone enrolled instead of a few people here and there? I haven’t gotten anything from my chain of command, GoArmyEd, or my school!,” read one post.
Others expressed concern about remaining college requirements or how the suspension will affect the enlisted promotion system, where civilian education is valued and rewarded.
Sgt. 1st Class Vido Barina with the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade in Wiesbaden, Germany, said taking away tuition assistance is the wrong move.
“Every commercial, every brochure, has money for college written all over it … recruiting us into the Army and then taking away one of the main reasons we joined is a bit hypocritical,” said Barina, who added that as an 11-year Army veteran, it’s his junior troops he is concerned about. “There are so many things that cost a lot of money and don’t need to take place that are not getting the ax.”
Although tuition assistance is being suspended, soldiers can continue to access their GI Bill benefits or use other funding sources, such as grants and scholarships or state tuition assistance for Army National Guard soldiers.
Sgt. Daniel Phillips, with the 66th MI Brigade, said he was hoping to save the GI Bill to pass on to his kids, adding that paying for classes out of his own pocket isn’t a realistic option.
“(Tuition Assistance) is something I’ve been utilizing my whole Army career to help me stand out from my peers and benefit my family,” Phillips said. “I had a degree plan set up and this is going to be a huge setback.”
Prince advised that soldiers contact their local education centers with questions and to get updates. Army officials say that updated information will also be posted to http://www.goarmyed.com.
Air Force joins Army, Marines in cutting tuition assistance
An airman speaks with a Grand Canyon University representative at an education fair at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 16, 2012.
|U.S. AIR FORCE, FLICKR|
The Air Force has joined the Marines and the Army in dropping tuition assistance due to sweeping federal budget cuts.
Word of the decision began reaching airmen in the Pacific on Tuesday morning. During a commander’s call at Yokota Air Base, 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Mark August told airmen that applications for tuition assistance submitted after March 12 likely would be rejected by the Air Force.
“I suggest you call and see where your application’s at,” he said.
Because the Air Force is also strictly limiting TDY, professional education at the service’s Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and Squadron Officer School, would also be limited, he said.
Commanders would likely have to limit and prioritize airmen scheduled to attend those schools, August said.
At Ramstein Air Base in Germany, phones at the education center were busy Tuesday morning with callers ranging from the distressed to those in disbelief asking: “What do you mean, I can’t apply?”
“It has been probably one of the craziest mornings of my career,” said Keith Davis, the chief of education and training at Ramstein, who fielded some of those phone calls. “It has been unbelievable.”
The official message that the Air Force was suspending all new requests for tuition assistance effective immediately, came out “stateside time yesterday,” Davis said Tuesday.
“We pushed an email out this morning from the education center,” informing airmen of the change, Davis said.
By the time airmen woke up Tuesday morning in Germany, they were shut out from submitting new requests for tuition assistance through the Air Force Portal. A message on the application site says in red letters: “Air Force Military Tuition Assistance Currently Not Available.”
Capt. Nicholas Plante, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, said Tuesday that Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley made the decision at about 5 p.m. Washington time Monday to suspend military tuition assistance. The service’s education offices were promptly notified, and the Air Force planned to put out a statement Tuesday on its web site, www.af.mil, Plante said.
Sequestration, he said, is having “devastating effects” on readiness, mobilization and the workforce. “We have to make difficult choices to preserve those types of things.”
Plante said the suspension applies to all components, including the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard on extended active duty orders.
Last week, the Army and the Marines announced similar moves and the Navy was expected also to announce changes to its tuition assistance program.
As of Monday, airmen are not permitted to submit new requests for tuition assistance, Plante said. Airmen currently enrolled in approved courses are not affected, he said and are allowed to complete them. Applications from airmen submitted before the suspension but not yet approved will be processed normally, Plante said. The Air Force will evaluate the program in coming months, he said.
The Air Force has been providing $250 per semester credit hour and up to $4,500 a year to airmen pursuing associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The Air Force does not charge for professional education courses.
At Ramstein, about 1,600 students are currently taking advantage of tuition assistance benefits, according to Davis. About 70 requests are pending approval. To date this fiscal year, the base’s education office has issued about $4 million in tuition assistance benefits.
“The advice is not to go away from education” but to still take advantage of other education benefits that are available, such as the G.I. Bill, Plante said. The cuts do not affect the G.I. Bill.
Yokota commander August told airmen who are concerned about how the cuts in education would affect their promotion prospects that review boards would factor in the education cuts.
A petition created March 8 — the day the Army announced its cuts — on the ‘We the People’ section of WhiteHouse.gov already has more than 27,000 signatures. It urges President Barack Obama to reinstate tuition assistance through an executive order. A petition must reach 100,000 signatures within 30 days to receive a response from the White House, according to its website.
House approves lowering tuition for Colorado illegal immigrant students, bill goes to governor
Students to get in-state tuition rates
Last Updated: 5 days ago
DENVER – A bill allowing lower tuition rates for illegal immigrant students received final approval from state House lawmakers Friday.
The bill passed 40-21 and will now proceed to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign the bill. Three Republicans joined with all the Democratic lawmakers to approve the bill.
Hickenlooper tweeted, “Undocumented kids will now have a fair and equitable way to pursue a higher education in CO. Well done.”
The bill allows students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college at the in-state rate regardless of their immigration status.
Currently, students in the country illegally must pay the non-resident tuition rate, which can be more than three times higher than the in-state rate.
The proposal and similar bills have been debated at the Colorado Legislature for a decade. Both parties have voted to defeat the bills in the past. Republicans argued that a federal immigration overhaul needs to happen first.
The bill has some specific requirements: Students must graduate from a Colorado high school, they must have resided in Colorado for at least three consecutive years and they must sign an affidavit stating they are seeking citizenship.
Legislative analysts say the measure could affect some 500 students next school year.
In the past, many Republicans have said that the legislation raises an issue of fairness because illegal immigrants would be receiving a benefit that other students don’t receive. But Democrats say the state has invested in the immigrants’ education in state public schools and they should have the chance to attend college at an affordable rate.