Sequestration hits higher education, military tuition assistance cut

Sequestration hits higher education, military tuition assistance cut

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Active-duty service members in four of the five military branches are now no longer able to apply for college tuition stipends, as a direct result of sequestration.  Tuition Assistance, or TA, has been cut for the Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard – and as of this morning, the Air Force.  A decision is pending from the Navy.

Chris Purington served in the Air Force for over 21 years.  He says he wouldn't have been able to get his B. A. in Management, and ultimately pursue an MBA at Chaminade University without tuition assistance.

"To me it's appalling that they did that to the service men and women that are serving right now," said Purington, a VA Certifying official at Chaminade.

Active-duty service members who wished to apply for up to $4,500 a year to attend college classes can no longer do so because of sequestration cuts. Troops who were already granted stipends will not lose their funding, but won't be able to apply for more.

"It's gonna be tough on them—especially if they're getting close to their degree and close to getting out—and now they either have to fund it out of pocket, or they have to wait and see what happens when the fiscal year comes around to see if the budget will be sorted out and they can get back from the military what they shouldn't have taken away to begin with," said Purington.

Last year alone, the U.S. Army provided $373 million in tuition assistance, helping more than 201,000 soldiers.

"Army leadership is taking a close look at the situation and making deliberate decisions to ensure that what we do has minimal impact on the force," said Paul Prince, the Army G-1 Deputy Chief of Public Affairs, by phone.

In 2012, the U.S. Air Force spent over $194 million supporting 104,000 airmen's educational goals.

"The Air Force has had to make difficult choices to preserve readiness," said Second Lieutenant Jessica Colby, the 15th Wing Public Affairs Deputy Chief.  "The effects of the suspension will be reevaluated and determine the impacts."

G.I. bill funding was not affected. It helps with college costs post-service. But many active-duty troops Hawaii News Now heard from tell us, they've already transferred those benefits to their dependants. They say they were relying on tuition assistance to cover their own education.

"The tuition assistance plays a big factor," said Purington.  "That's a big benefit for the service men and women and it's a lot of stress relief knowing that they have that to fall back on and without that, it's a big stressor right now for everybody."

So what does this mean for active-duty service members who've already transferred their G.I. bill benefits, or those who didn't get their tuition assistance applications in before the cut-off date?  If they want to go to college, they'll have to look for financial aid, Pell grants, scholarships, or student loans to pay for their degrees.

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