Some branches of the military are suspending tuition assistance programs for college students, citing budget issues related to sequestration.
The Army, Marines and Air Force already have announced plans to cut back on the program, while others are still weighing what to do.
“I wouldn’t be in school without it,” said Andrew Goodwin, a student at Penn State Harrisburg. He said the main reason he enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard was help paying for college.
“That’s one of the main draws of the National Guard. They actively recruit college-aged kids,” said Goodwin. “And, that’s one of the big things they use. They use the student loan repayment program and the Tuition Assistance.”
In a memo explaining the cut (which can be viewed here), the Army said in fiscal year 2012, about 201,000 soldiers used the Tuition Assistance program. It provides a benefit of up to $4,500 per student per year. It cost the Army $373 million over the course of the fiscal year.
“This suspension is necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration. The Army understands the impacts of this action and will re-evaluate should the budgetary situation improve,” the memo reads.
Students expecting to receive the benefit for the current semester still will get it, the Army said. However, no new requests for money are being accepted, including for next semester.
A petition protesting the cut is on the White House website and has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.
“We recognize that the impacts of the sequester go beyond whether or not people are going to be able to have tours of the White House,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
A group of U.S. senators are trying to get an amendment passed to a budget bill that would restore the program.
“The motivation for many of them, probably most of them, some 200,000 in the Army is that they can work a little bit harder and be able to get a college degree,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told Fox News.
Andrew Goodwin is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in information sciences and technology. He says he worries about the thousands of other students like him who are just starting out and won’t have access to the program that helped him get through school.
He said, “They could make cuts across the board anywhere else but education. But, I feel like if we don’t have education, we don’t have anything.”