(Mint Press) – For 200,000 soldiers, the program that has helped to pay for their college courses has become a victim of the March 1 sequestration — the Army’s tuition assistance program has been canceled in light of the funding reductions.
New students will be blocked from enrolling in new courses under Army funding. Those currently taking courses may continue them, but will not be eligible to enroll in new ones.
“If you are expected to be a full-time soldier, deployed part of the time and take care of your family, it is difficult to do without tuition assistance,” said Sgt. Joe Rosen of Princeton, now based in Maryland. “I push my unit to get their education and this is frustrating.”
Last year, the Army spent $373 million on its tuition assistance program. The move to cut tuition assistance came after the Marine Corps announced it will halt enrollments in its tuition assistance programs.
For both the Army and the Marine Corps, the tuition assistance program was available for the completion of high school, vocational, collegiate or post-collegiate courses toward the completion of a degree. The program offered a maximum of $250 per semester or credit hour, up to $4,500 per fiscal year.
These cuts do not impact or affect the G.I. Bill, which also offers academic financial assistance. The Air Force and Navy are also considering similar cuts.
“It is utterly unacceptable that the first casualties of Congress’ inability to act are education benefits for servicemembers,” Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, said in a statement. “The decisions of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army set a dangerous precedent that educating our nation’s servicemembers and veterans is an expendable option. This is not, and should never be, the case.”
Sequestration — the result of mandated federal spending cuts introduced by the Balanced Budget Act of 2011 — automatically applies an 8.8 percent reduction to every military account short of military payroll for 2013. For 2014 through 2022, however, the cuts are no longer automatic and can be applied with the discretion of the Congress and the White House.
Until this year, the Obama administration refused to make concrete plans for the sequestration, believing instead it would be avoided. Obama declared during the campaign that sequestration “will not happen.”
The Army is currently moving to reducing its active duty force to below its current target of 32 combat brigades and 490,000 personnel.
The Department of Veteran Affairs, retirement pay and military pay and allowances are all exempt from sequestration. Civilian payroll, however, is expected to be hit, and layoffs and furloughs are expected for civilian employees of the Department of Defense and for civilian contractors.
Other noticeable cuts have been the cancellation of military air shows, including performances of the Navy’s Blue Angels, the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Army’s Golden Knights.