Services Gear Up To Restore Tuition Assistance

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The military services held off Thursday on lifting the suspension of new enrollments for tuition assistance programs while reviewing the legislation that calls for the restoration of the continuing education plans.

Congressional sponsors said they expected the services to act quickly on the tuition assistance amendment they attached to the continuing resolution on government funding that passed the House and Senate and awaited President Obama’s signature.

“The amendment specifically requires that,” said Christopher Moyer, a spokesman for Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who joined Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in offering the amendment on the Senate side.

But the TA programs may not be restored in their current forms, which provide up to $250 per credit hour to a total of $4,500 annually. Moyer said tuition was subject to the same 8 percent cuts facing other defense accounts through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30 under the congressional cost-cutting process known as sequestration.

The Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all suspended new enrollments for tuition assistance earlier this month. Servicemembers currently enrolled were also advised that they would be ineligible for future courses.

The Navy stood apart in not joining the other services in suspending enrollements while considering a plan that would require sailors to pay for 25 percent of their education aid. The Navy was “now in a holding pattern” on how to proceed since passage of the amendment, said Sharon Andersen, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s personnel office.

A Marine Corps statement suggested that the suspensions would be lifted shortly. The statement said that “further guidance on the Tuition Assistance (TA) will be published, which will include an effective date (for lifting the suspensions). Until that time, TA requests will not be processed.”

The TA programs allow active-duty servicemembers to attend school part-time, and are considered in the ranks a fast-track to promotion. Last year, military members took 870,000 courses and earned 50,500 degrees, diplomas and certificates.

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