As of March 8, Tuition Assistance for military students will no longer be accepted. Tuition Assistance (TA) is a program that helps thousands of military students in the nation pay for college each quarter. With little prior warning, forced federal budget cuts have suspended this financial aid source that many military students depended on.
Mary Davis, the program specialist for the Veterans Department at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC), explained TA as a way for active service members and veterans to continue their education while in school. Davis said TA only covers tuition costs, and not extra fees such as text books. Now however, that option for military students is completely gone.
Davis said the reason for the loss of tuition was a way for the army to “see immediate cost savings”. She has already heard however, of some hope for TA coming back, and believes it will be back in a few quarters. This week Davis heard news of the Senator of Utah trying to bring back TA by bringing it to a vote in the legislature.
SPSCC was not hit too hard by the loss of TA according to Davis. Only a handful of students were unable to get TA in. She said that impacts of the loss of this federal funding are being seen nationally, but the impacts on each individual institute “depends on the flexibility of the school” and how well the campus is able to support their students through this tough time.
David Cook, a SPSCC student, is currently a specialist in the United States National Guard as a 27D, which is a Paralegal Specialist. Cook was one of the lucky military students at SPS who got his TA in before getting denied. Cook said he literally turned his TA to the school’s financial office just in time, because right after he did, the lady at the office got the phone call to stop approving any more TA.
Cook joined the army three years ago, hoping he could one day be a hero because he said “that’s what military members are; they’re heroes.” He said he “didn’t necessarily join just for the education benefits, but that was certainly one of the benefits of being in the military.”
Cook said he knew there was no other way he could pay for school on his own. His parent’s had their own hands full with his older brother going into debt from student loans, so he knew he had to figure something out on his own.
Being in the National Guard has offered him TA and the GI bill. Cook said the regular GI bill doesn’t cover as much as tuition assistance. TA has helped Cook cover the costs of tuition the last year and half while he’s been attending SPS. Cook said TA also would help cover a good portion of most four year universities, like Western, which he was planning on transferring to next year.
Now like many military students around the nation, he must make other plans, besides depending on tuition assistance. While Cook said “tuition assistance was my go-to thing,” he is glad to hear there are still other options like the GI bill that still help out with college expenses.
Kathy Rhodes, the Dean of Enrollment Services, said that Pierce Community College (PC), that has much larger military student population, was impacted much more by the loss of TA. Rhodes estimates that PC lost about 600-700 students because military members were not able get their TA in, and then didn’t have enough time to prepare a financial alternative before tuition for the next quarter was due.
Davis says other options for military students include the GI bill, federal financial aid, or digging up personal resources. Davis’s personal suggestion is for students to see if they can afford to sit out a quarter, save up their money, and wait for TA to come back.
As Cook said, “it might make things a little bit more complicated” but “there’s still options, and that’s a good thing.”
*featured image from this site http://www.army.mod.uk/training_education/6959.aspx