Senator Kay Hagan (D. NC) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to expressing her concerns these cuts would have on the military's tuition assistance program:Recent sequester cuts have forced the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force to suspend their Tuition Assistance Programs, which gave active-duty military members up to $4,500 per year to work toward a high school diploma, certificate or college degree. While these individuals can still take advantage of financial aid like scholarships, federal grants and the G.I. Bill, many individuals are concerned that slashing Tuition Assistance Programs will limit military members' access to higher education.
Of course, no one is more affected by the suspension of Tuition Assistance Programs than active-duty service members. Many of these individuals have spoken out about their disappointment with the cuts and are now concerned about how they will pay for college.
One of these service members is Evan Barre, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Central Arkansas, KTHV reports. Barre was relying on Federal Tuition Assistance from the National Guard to help him earn his bachelor's degree, but due to sequester cuts, he could lose about $2,300 per year for tuition.
"I would say having college paid for probably made up about 80 or 90% of the reason I joined," Barre told KTHV. "I feel like they're so busy bickering that they can't decide on what they're going to do, and it's leaving us high and dry." - U.S. News, 3/18/13
While local university's like the Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC are assisting by giving free tuition to it's active-duty members and institutions like Troy University, Southern New Hampshire University, Touro University, Endicott College, Drury University and Park University have launched new scholarships to help servicemen and women pay for college, there is still more work to be done to restore the military's tuition assistance program. Hagan has teamed up with Senator Jim Inhofe (R. OK) to introduce an amendment that would restore and secure funding for the military tuition assistance program:"I think it's very short sighted and what is really import is this kind of education is going to help our members transition into civilian life," Hagan told ABC11's John Clark.
In fiscal year, 2012, about 300,000 service members were taking part in the program. - ABC 11 Ralaigh-Durham, 3/14/13
Here's what Hagan said about the amendment on the Senate floor:The department’s tuition assistance program allows service members to go to school part-time while they’re on active duty. The Marines, Army and Air Force have said they’ll terminate the program for the rest of the fiscal year.
Last year, service members took 870,000 courses and earned 50,500 degrees, diplomas and certificates, Inhofe and Hagan noted in a news release. Inhofe’s office later said Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas had joined as co-sponsors.
Meanwhile, the general sentiment of the amendment received broad support.
“I know that these are tough times, but I’m not sure that’s the way you want to save money,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told POLITICO when asked about the severance of tuition assistance.
The Senate punted action on the continuing resolution to Monday, and over the weekend, staffers worked to compile a list of amendments the Senate will consider. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said she hopes that final passage on a temporary spending measure — amendments and all — will take place by Monday evening. - Politico, 3/18/13
Organizations like the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Legion, Marine Corps League, American Military Retirees Association, AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Non Commissioned Officer Association (NCOA), and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) have expressed their support for the Inhofe-Hagan Amendment:"We cannot put the burden of addressing our long-term fiscal challenges on the backs of our servicemembers," said Hagan. "The tuition assistance program gives our best and brightest the opportunity to continue developing their skills while on active duty, which will ultimately lead to smoother transitions to civilian life. Though I understand that the Department of Defense has tough budget decisions to make, but I believe that it is shortsighted to completely suspend this program. I urge my colleagues to join me and Senator Inhofe to pass this amendment and reinstate this crucial program." - Political News, 3/16/13
“MOAA is deeply concerned that the Pentagon abruptly canceled tuition assistance programs for the troops. In addition to the obvious impact on morale, it’s already having a measurable impact on recruiting. With so many years of sacrifice for the nation the all-volunteer force deserve better. MOAA strongly supports Senators Inhofe and Hagan’s efforts to reverse this bad decision.” - Vice Admiral Norbert R. Ryan, President of MOAA
“It is readily apparent to the Non Commissioned Officers Association of the USA (NCOA) that tuition assistance programs contribute to the creation of significant leadership potential of every serving member.” The NCOA letter said, “Well done Senators Inhofe and Hagan on the priority introduction of this high value Amendment! NCOA fully Supports your action and will assist in every way possible to preserve tuition assistance.” - The Non Commissioned Officer Association (NCOA)
“On behalf of the 2 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) and our Auxiliaries, we are pleased to offer our strongest support to your amendment to the upcoming Defense Continuing Resolution, requiring each military service secretary to carry out Tuition Assistance programs authorized by law.” - Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
“I wanted to extend my gratitude on behalf of the military spouse community for Senator Hagan’s commitment to restoring the Tuition Assistance program for our troops. Service members have valued the opportunity to pursue their education since World War II and it has allowed our brave heroes the opportunity to achieve their degrees while courageously protecting the freedoms of our Nation,” said Mrs. Strzalkowski.The Senate is expected to vote tonight on restoring funding for the military tuition assistance program. If you would like to get more information on the Inhofe-Hagan Amendment, fee free to call either Senator Hagan or Senator Inhofe about more information:
“The suspension of the Tuition Assistance program for three of our branches is appalling and a hurts morale in our military,” said Mrs. Reynolds. “I am pleased to know that military families have a voice in Senator Kay Hagan. I applaud both Sen. Hagan and Sen. Inhofe in their efforts to maintain Tuition Assistance, and I vow to support this type of legislation because it keeps our military strong." - Bianca M. Strzalkowski, 2011 Military Spouse of the Year, and Susan Reynolds, 2013 Pope Air Force Field Spouse of the Year
Then contact your Senator and urge them to vote for the Inhofe-Hagan Amendment: