With the release of the President's proposed 2012 Defense Budget, professionals and amateurs all over are talking about various parts of the budget. One area that has been relatively quiet is the issue of the Tuition Assistance (TA) budget. However, it is relatively inevitable that the TA program is going to be subject to cuts with everything else.
At the Council of College and Military Educators annual conference this week, the Chief of Continuing Education Programs, Carolyn Baker**, spoke to the entire conference membership, and also presented a two-part breakout session. During her talks, she stated that "The current program growth is unsustainable," citing increased demand and rapidly increasing tuition costs. She also stated that the previously promised increase in TA rates is not going to happen.
As our federal government progresses further into this period of fiscal austerity, it is inevitable that many of the military's benefits are going to suffer budget cutbacks. As you know, I absolutely believe that the current Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are unsustainable. Even without Chief Baker's comments, it seems inevitable that the Tuition Assistance program will also be cut.
There are two ways to approach these undeniable changes: one is to fight against them, and one is to maximize the usage of these benefits before the changes occur. Both are important. While it is unlikely that we can prevent future changes to these programs, we can fight to preserve the current benefits for people currently in the system. Grandfathering in current users will protect them from an erosion of benefits and is ultimately more likely to succeed than fighting to maintain the current programs into the future.
Also, look closely at your individual situation and see how you can utilize your education benefits sooner. Just as an example, I lost MyCAA eligibility when the new program took effect in October 2010. I was not prepared to pursue my educational goals at that exact time, but I did not want to waste those benefits. I am currently taking classes and while it is not the ideal time for my family, it is working out OK so far. Perhaps you could try to take one class now and see how it goes.
With the financial instability in our world today, it is foolish to assume that the military's educational benefits will remain the same. Please do what you can to utilize those benefits now, and prepare yourself for the possibility that they might not be available in the future.
Carolyn Baker's full title is so wordy that it makes the sentence unreadable. She is the Chief of the Department of Defense Continuing Education Programs and works in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. This office is a part of the Personnel and Readiness office of the Department of Defense.