Armed Forces temporarily shuts down tuition assistance program


Aerial shot of the Pentagon which is home to the Department of Defense for the United States Government

On March 8, 2013 the United States Air Force, Army, and Marines collectively decided to cut off tuition assistance to any new enrollees due to extensive federal budget cuts.

Those who attempted to apply for tuition assistance were greeted with bold red letters reading “Air Force Military Tuition Assistance Currently Not Available.” Not only did the cuts affect the Air Force Reserve, but the Air National Guard as well. All components on extended active duty were temporarily suspended.

“You don’t take away from the people who provide your freedom,” said 31-year-old business major and veteran Mike Brown. “It’s the wrong program to take from.”

According to 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Mark August, all new submissions would likely be declined after March 12. Airmen currently enrolled were not affected and those who applied before the deferral was put into action will be processed normally.

Tuition assistance is being cut, but the GI Bill is not being taken away, Brown mentioned. This is mostly a penalty against active duty vets, those who serve on a daily basis, and reservists, which are those who can be augmented to active duty in the case of state or national emergencies.

“The problem is going to be funding illegals,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of programming out there and we’re providing for people who didn’t do the right thing. If there is enough funding, I’m not saying don’t help those people out. What I’m saying is don’t take from law-abiding citizens.”

An upheaval resulted from lawmakers and military members, and in response to the tuition cuts a petition was formed on the White House’s “We the People” website, which racked up more than 100,000 signatures. This was the amount needed to obtain a response from the Obama administration.

On Thursday, March 21 the House approved a resolution and included an amendment that inhibits the armed services from cutting all funding from the TA program. It also states that the Pentagon must find money elsewhere in its budget for education assistance.

However, the Coast Guard is excluded from the amendment and its tuition assistance is still being suspended. The amendment covers only the defense budget, and the Coast Guard receives its money from the Department of Homeland Security.

“Honestly, if there was no financial aid to vets when I applied, I would have went back [to active duty],” said 28-year-old Veterans Assistance work study major and vet Lester Stone. “That, or tried to get into some type of vocational or trade school.”

According to the Community College’s website “I Can Afford College,” community colleges believe that they are the solution in helping the thousands of students who were affected by the suspension. Veterans should still file a FAFSA and possibly receive the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, Cal Grant and other forms of financial aid.

Despite the resolutions made by the White House, the students and veterans who work in the Vet department at CRC remain on their toes.

“This is a program [Veterans Department] where we are here to assist veterans and support their needs,” Brown said. “And it’s just one more tool that can be in danger of being taken away.”