2012 Army Tuition assistance program:
201,000 — soldiers enrolled
- $373 million — Army paid on tuition payments
- 2,831— earned Associate's degrees
- 4,495 — earned Bachelor's degrees
- 1,945 — earned graduate degrees
- $4,500 — max. amount alotted per soldier a year
BARSTOW • Fort Irwin combat engineer Justin King has been taking community college courses on base through Barstow Community College, and he hoped to enroll in more classes next school year.
That may not happen, thanks to recent funding cuts.
Army and Marine Corps tuition assistance programs are being suspended due to budget shortfalls, according to a U.S. Department of Defense news release. The suspension took effect Friday, but soldiers and Marines currently enrolled in courses will be allowed to complete them.
“That’s the whole reason why people join the military, is to get their education,” King said. “It’s going to be kind of hard when we don’t get paid as much as it is, and the Army is cutting back our pay.”
Tuition assistance is a popular program, with 201,000 Army soldiers enrolled in 2012, according to the website GoArmyEd.com. The program provides financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education programs in support of a soldier’s professional and personal self-development goals.
King funded his schooling with student loans before enlisting in the Army, and he said he had just paid them off.
“I have two new soldiers that are 18 and this is their first duty station,” he said. “They’re wanting to enroll in college and they tell me all the time that’s why they joined was to get an education. And if there isn’t a program for them to do that, then they’re not going to be happy.”
Fort Irwin Garrison Commander Col. Kurt Pinkerton said in a statement that they were still assessing how the announcement could impact soldiers at the base.
“This will not impact those soldiers already enrolled in courses with approved TA,” Pinkerton said. “We are currently assessing if it will impact any soldiers at Fort Irwin enrolled in future courses.”
Lt. Col. Tom Alexander, spokesman for the Army’s personnel chief, said the suspension is necessary due to budget challenges from the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration, according to an Army Times article.
“The Army understands the effects of this action and will re-evaluate should the budget situation improve,” Alexander said in the article.
In 2012 the Army spent $373 million on tuition assistance payments for soldiers enrolled in 620,000 courses. With that money, 2,831 soldiers earned associate’s degrees, 4,495 earned bachelor’s and 1,946 received graduate degrees. The program paid 100 percent of tuition per soldier up to $4,500 a year.
“Soldiers have other options other than tuition assistance,” said Spc. James Hardesty of Fort Irwin. “I just hope that tuition assistance doesn’t stop people from continuing their education because the VA offers a lot of assistance. ... Soldiers need to go to the education center and see what they have to offer.”
Soldiers can continue to pursue their educational goals with VA education benefits, if applicable, that include the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty,（Chapter 30）, Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve（Chapter 1606）, Reserve Education Assistance Program（Chapter 1607）, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, federal grants and federal financial aid, according to the GoArmyEd website. National Guard Soldiers may also be eligible for state tuition assistance benefits.
Army tuition assistance reinstated
Fort Irwin BCC students covered by BOG waiver
March 22, 2013 7:27 PM
Congress voted to reinstate the program when the House of Representatives approved a large spending bill on Thursday, according to a report by the Associated Press. The program was extended until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Evans said soldiers at Fort Irwin are treated as in-state residents and most, therefore, qualify for the California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s Fee Waiver. The grant program pays the $46/unit enrollment fees of community college students.
“We’ve done a good job of shifting our tuition assistance students to the California BOG waiver so the majority of our students aren’t affected,” he said.
He said the suspension actually resulted in a positive change for the BCC program because it increased BCC’s enrollment as student soldiers re-evaluated the costs of other four-year programs on base. Soldiers not enrolled at the community college also have the option to attend Azusa Pacific University, Park University and Trident University among others, according to Evans.
“They started looking for more cost-effective programs and the education office shined a light on us and sent a lot of students our way,” he said.
Combat Engineer Justin King said the decision to reinstate the program means he and other soldiers will not have to stress about how they will pay to attend college courses while in the Army.
“It’s a burden lifted off of people. That way they can just get the degree and feel better about themselves,” he said.
King said right before the suspension took effect he saw a line of 40 to 50 soldiers wanting to enroll in courses before the March 8 deadline at the BCC office.
“Suspending the program is stupid. Are they trying to kick us out? They’re just giving soldiers a reason to leave the military,” he said.
Last year the program provided $373 million to soldiers taking 620,000 courses, according to the military education website www.GoArmyEd.com.