Sequestration and Tuition Assistance

Sequestration has sunk its teeth into the Marine Corps with reductions in spending. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, announced recently in an administrative memo that outlined the fiscal restraints, that the Department of the Navy will immediately cease all new USMC enrollments in voluntary education Tuition Assistance (TA).

Tuition Assistance is a popular benefit provided to eligible and currently serving members of each branch of service—boasting 100% tuition and fees up to $4500/fiscal year. The benefit is a game changer for those currently serving, as it allows the service member to hold on to GI Bill benefits for use as a veteran in transition back to civilian life after service. It is unclear at this time if the cuts will affect those members currently using the program. Officials have not commented on what will happen to the benefit for these student-veterans in the upcoming semester. The Department of Defense later suggested to all branches to consider “significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants … for the duration of the fiscal situation.”

A long list of other cuts, cancellations, and shut downs can be found in the Secretary’s memo. Student Veterans of America’s executive director, Michael Dakduk also commented on the importance of such a benefit, noting that the hard-pressed decision was “especially troubling given the number of Marines expected to leave active service in the coming years and the incredible value placed on higher education in today’s job market.”

I recently posted a blog concerning the economic crisis facing returning veterans today and the importance of getting an education. Specifically, I talk about the use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and its ability to lift up our generation in the coming years. Unfortunately for those currently serving, with the sequestration cutting into the bone of the Corps, service men and women will have to rely on other means of assistance before making the transition.

IAVA is a strong advocate for education benefits for veterans and their family members. If you have questions about various GI Bill benefits and how to utilize them while on active duty, visit our website and FAQs, or ask me a question at NewGiBill.org.

As for other options available to service members not willing to dip into their GI Bill benefits until transition, there are a variety of veteran-specific grants and scholarships to consider:

1. The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site provides great information to learn about the differences between other financial aid options. This is important to understand before settling with education loans as opposed to grants or scholarships.

a. You can also check out the Federal Pell Grant and;

b. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant

2. The American Legion provides a link to each state’s specific education benefits for veterans. It is always best to check with your respective state to learn the most up to date information.

3. The AMVETS National Scholarship Program is designed for veterans who have exhausted other benefits. Applicants must have been honorably discharged. Annual awards are $1,000 and based on need.

4. The Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship is available to all veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart. Amounts vary and are based on financial need.

5. The Pat Tillman Foundation offers a program which provides financial assistance to veterans and active duty military who wish to start, continue, or finish a college education. Award amounts vary, and eligibility is determined by merit as well as financial need.

6. The Troops to Teachers Program is administered by the DoD, and provides financial support for veterans who choose to pursue a degree in teaching or education. Each eligible applicant must agree to a term of service in a high need school or community in order to receive funding—based on financial need and academic merit.

7. The Daniel Drevnick Scholarship has been established to assist veterans in the transition from military service to civilian law enforcement. The fund is awarded twice yearly.

8. The Horatio Alger Military Veterans Scholarship is awarded to veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.

9. If you are forced to utilize student loans to cover some of your costs, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s cost comparison calculator.

10. You can also check out our New GI Bill Calculator to better understand how your benefit will work in various scenarios.