Military tuition assistance suspension ignites firestorm
March 15th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

Military tuition assistance suspension ignites firestorm

It just got tougher for American servicemen and women to afford school.

This week, the U.S. Air Force suspended a program which pays for service members to take college courses while serving. And they're not the only ones.

Last week the tuition assistance program was also cut by the Marines, Coast Guard and Army.

Tuition assistance has long been one of the main selling points for recruiting young men and women. For many, it’s an opportunity to get an education they wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford.

Amanda Harrison and her husband, an active-duty Marine, were shocked when she found out through social media, not the Marines, that his tuition assistance was being eliminated.

"The tuition assistance program is essential to the military," Harrison said. "The idea of there not being tuition assistance doesn't cross your mind, and a lot of people can’t afford to pay for classes. You can’t get out of the military today and expect to get a good job without an education."

In response, Harrison started a petition on Change.org to raise awareness and get the military to reinstate the program.

It has been active for a little over a week and has already received almost 23,000 signatures.

"The reaction has been absolutely amazing. People who aren't in the military and don’t know anyone in the military have still been sympathetic to the cause because it is such an important one," Harrison said.

Many who signed the petition also wrote comments.

Kimberly Steel from Fallbrook, CA wrote, that military men and women "deserve better, they deserve the opportunity to use their spare time to take classes to gain marketable skills to use when they get out and need to get a job."

Joey Altero, 23, was in the Air Force for 3 years and received tuition assistance during active duty. He is currently enrolled in school while in the reserves to finish his bachelors degree, something he says is possible because the start tuition assistance gave him.

"A lot of my friends on active duty are now getting their tuition assistance cut, and a lot of them are considering shortening their tours because of it,"  Altero said.

More and more veterans are getting out of the service and finding that they’re unable to get jobs at home. There are currently 9.4-percent of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans that are unemployed.

According to the military the program is being discontinued because of the forced spending cuts of sequestration.

In the Marines alone, $1.4 billion will be trimmed from their budget this year and Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos said in a message to Marines that their focus would be on Marine readiness rather that other programs like tuition assistance.

Harrison said she never imagined herself doing something like this but said, "Somebody had to it, and I know other families have the stories, and now will have the same struggles as us."

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Filed under: Education • Military • OutFront Extra • OutFront Staff • Sequestration
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Joey at Purdue Univ

    What?!? That's a travesty, it's the least we could do.

    March 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Reply

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