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Today the Army suspended the Tuition Assistance Program.   This is not the GI Bill.  The GI Bill is funded by a different source and is run by the VA (badly in my experience).  

Tuition Assistance is for Regular Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve Soldiers to use off duty while serving.  The GI Bill is for Soldiers who have completed a minimum required amount of service and receive an amount set by their contract.

Tuition Assistance is limited to $250 per credit hour and an annual cap of $4,500 total.  It can’t be used for a Masters program but can be used for GED’s or college courses from “accredited” institutions.  TA will pay 100% of tuition up to the dollar cap.  Or rather it use to.  But the party that “supports” the military has pushed things to the point that Soldiers can’t enroll in TA for now and the foreseeable future.

Thanks GOP.

Tuition Assistance is/was a great program that helped Soldiers out a lot.  I speak from experience with it, that it allowed you to take a class here and there as the mission allowed and work towards a degree.  In a four year period I was able to “knock out” 7 classes that I did not have to worry about when I came off Active Duty (Regular Army in TA speak).  This meant that when I started using my GI Bill, I only needed 3 semesters to get my Associates.  

Later while a Drilling Reservist (you know, the “weekend warrior”, one weekend a month two weeks a year…my but, I digress) I made use of TA again.  The Army says that over 200,000 Soldiers in all sections of the Army are currently using TA.  Effective today no longer will you be allowed to enroll in classes paid for with TA funds.  

To save $373 million, what was spent on TA last year, the Army is suspending the program.  What this means is in the short term many Soldiers who are working on degrees, certification programs like Paramedic, and general self improvement will have to stop because of a personal lack of funds.   Soldiers are not paid well.  They are paid ok but not well.  TA allowed many lower enlisted to get started on their education early, making use of down time and putting less a burden on the VA run GI Bill.

For National Guard and Army Reserves, this low pay is even more telling.  You get paid on average for a Battle Assembly the equivalent of 4 days of what a Regular Army Soldier would be paid in a month.  In many cases these lower enlisted are only going to school because of TA.  With out it, they won’t be going.

But cutting spending on making sure our Soldiers can use the top of the line multi-billion dollar equipment fostered onto the Army by bloated Contracts is more important than cutting the multi-billion dollar projects the Army does not even want.

In the long run, this will harm recruitment.  You’re a High School Grad from a low income area with low income jobs as your best hope of getting.  Getting to take college classes at no cost to you in exchange for serving the Nation is a big selling point.  It also motivates the Soldier to stay in shape, stay out of trouble, work hard in the classes, and become more qualified for promotion. (each class counts as points towards promotion.)  

I look back at my life and do not see how I could have gone to college with out massive debt.  I was working minimum wage plus fifty cents pumping gas when I enlisted.  Even living at home I could not afford to take classes.  That changed in the Military, being able to take the classes became an issue of time, not money.  As a result I got promoted faster, saved money, and was able to come off my first Active time and get a job slightly better than pumping gas.

Thanks to the requirements to cut spending the Army went for the quick money.  I understand why they did it, but I don’t agree with it.  The why is that cutting the immediate pay out funds, TA, they can show an instant “savings”.  But to cut 2% out of the pork programs won’t see that “savings” till the programs are wound down and disposed of. That can take years.

Of course we could just end the war in Afghanistan and save $150 billion a year (and countless lives). Oh wait that is crazy talk. Who would be the boggy man for the GOP to scare the voters with?

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