After the sequestration’s wall of budget cuts became a reality for the federal government March 1, the Army, Air Force, Cost Guard and Marine Corps stated the military’s tuition assistance program would come to a halt. The action set off a roar of frustration by many who viewed the tuition assistance, or TA, as a promise, and Congress quickly voted to protect the program — for now.
The amended bill will allow military services, except for the Coast Guard, to allow TA funding until the end of this fiscal year (October 1). After that, TA will be in danger again if Congress doesn’t have a sound budget in place to prevent the continuation of sequestration.
Andrea Helling, communications director for Sen. Jon Tester, said the amendment to restore most of the TA funding was unanimously agreed upon earlierthis month. Dan Malessa, press secretary, said Tester’s support for TA springs from two basic beliefs.
“Sen. Tester believes strongly in supporting our service men and women, as well as the importance of getting a good education that leads to new skills and jobs,” Malessa said.
The secretary of the army originally approved the suspension after facing $43 billion cuts as a part of the Budget Control Act that mandates $1.2 trillion in cuts across federal agencies. The military suspended the program, saying around $300 million could be saved, according to the Associated Press.
The TA is an individual benefit that provides around $4,500 each year to active military service members for continuing their education.
Jenilee Hayes, a University of Montana junior studying anthropology, said if it was not for TA, she probably would not have ended up at school. Hayes said Sen. Tester has always been a big advocate looking out for veterans’ rights.
“Montana is notorious for supporting veterans and treating us well,” she said.
Though Hayes is in the safe zone with only a semester left before graduating, she said she is worried for friends looking at graduating in three years or more and for future generations.
“When I first heard about TA being suspended, I was worried for myself and others in the service,” Hayes said. “There are new students as well as vets everywhere — it’s a big deal, and if goes through, it would effect a lot of people.”
Hayes said receiving an education benefits the quality of military members and the communities these men and women work in after their service.
Ben Palmer, a UM student and a public affairs cadet, said while freezing TA is not ideal, Congress has hit a point where they have to change how their spending money. As a nation, he said, we have to re-evaluate what we spend money on.
“The United States Military has reached a turning point after a decade of war and substantial growth,” said Palmer, reading from the GoArmyEd website. He paused and added, “We needed more troops, but now that we’re withdrawing, the military is downsizing.”
Palmer said 201,000 soldiers used Army tuition assistance in fiscal year 2012. According to the senators who voted for the amendments, 50,500 earned degrees, diplomas and certificates last year.
Cadet Allison Glass, a junior in the UM ROTC program and a pharmacy student, hopes to use the skills she has received at UM in her future military career.
Though Glass said if TA was canceled, she would be okay since she also receives the GI-bill, she feels it could have a negative impact on a lot of military members.
Glass motioned to a room in the ROTC building filled with the noise of service men and women talking between classes. “We have cadre here taking college classes when they never have been able to before because of TA.”