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Tuition assistance suspended: What now?


ARMY TIMES.  MARCH 12, 2013.  The Army’s popular tuition assistance program is being suspended because of the budget squeeze, although the thousands of soldiers enrolled in courses will be allowed to complete those courses.

But after the shutdown, which began at 5 p.m. Eastern time March 8, no one will be allowed to add new courses or enter the program.

The tuition assistance program is one of the Army’s most popular in-service benefits, with some 201,000 Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers participating in traditional classroom and online courses at 3,100 colleges and universities nationwide.

“Soldiers who are in courses now can complete those courses, but they will not be allowed to enroll in new courses,” said Lt. Col. Tom Alexander, spokesman for the Army’s personnel chief. “This suspension is necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible yearlong continuing resolution and sequestration.”

“Tuition assistance is a great program,” said Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army’s newly installed vice chief of staff. “But the program — we’re going to have to put it on hold for a little bit.”

Campbell blamed the “perfect storm” caused by sequestration, the replacement of a 2013 budget with a continuing resolution and a shortfall in funds to run the war in Afghanistan.

“Remember, our priority right now is the fight in Afghanistan,” Campbell told Army Times. “Too many people forget that we are a nation at war.”

Campbell said the brass will “relook” at restarting the program “when we can.” But he said 2013 is the Army’s “hardest year.”

That could leave the program closed until Oct. 1 or beyond.

“If you were a [Department of the Army] civilian and I’m going to furlough you for 22 days, but I’m going to let this soldier who may already have a graduate degree, a master’s degree [continue his education] — how does that sound? I have a hard time justifying that.”

During fiscal 2012, the Army spent $373 million on tuition assistance payments.

Under the TA payment formula, payments are capped at $250 per semester-hour of instruction, up to an annual total of $4,500.

While the TA program is suspended, soldiers can pursue education goals using their Veterans Affairs Department benefits, if eligible, that include the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty, Montgomery Bill-Selected Reserve, Reserve Assistance Program and the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Other education funding sources also may be appropriate, such as grants, scholarships and the state tuition assistance programs available to some National Guard soldiers.

Pentagon officials strongly urge soldiers affected by the TA shutdown to contact their local Army education center to assess their options.

Updated information also will be posted by GoArmyEd, the online application for managing the TA program at