WASHINGTON, March 8, 2013 – Budget problems have forced the Army and Marine Corps to cancel the tuition assistance program, service officials said today.
Navy and Air Force officials said they are studying the way forward with the program and expect decisions next week.
Thousands of service members take advantage of the tuition assistance program, which allows them to take college courses that prepare them for their jobs in the military or as they transition to the civilian workforce.
However, the current fiscal situation forced service officials to make difficult choices, said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Each service is responsible for funding and administering tuition assistance funding,” she said.
The Defense Department’s comptroller issued guidance “indicating that the services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants, effective immediately and for the duration of the current fiscal situation,” Hull-Ryde added.
Army officials announced today that soldiers will not be permitted to submit new requests for tuition assistance. Soldiers currently enrolled in courses approved for tuition assistance are not affected, and will be allowed to complete those courses, said Lt. Col. Tom Alexander, spokesman for the Army’s personnel chief.
The Army is taking this step because of 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,” Alexander said. Soldiers with questions can get answers at their local education centers.
The Marine Corps cancelled its program when across-the-board spending cuts under a “sequestration” mechanism in budget law took effect. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the Marine Corps to cease new enrollments in the voluntary education tuition assistance program. The Marine Corps falls under the Navy Department.
Mabus said in an all-Navy order that the actions are needed “to preserve support for those forces stationed overseas and currently forward-deployed. Reductions in lower-priority forward operations, and significant reductions in all other operations, training and maintenance are a result of this selection process.”