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March 18, 2013

Armed forces’ tuition assistance suspended

Some at Grissom likely affected

A temporary suspension of military tuition assistance programs will probably affect at least 15 local active-duty service members, according to Cass and Miami County veterans’ services officers.

The Army, Marines and Air Force announced early this month they had suspended their tuition assistance programs that fund college classes for service members currently on active duty. The services blamed required sequestration budget cuts for the suspensions.

Tuition assistance recipients could get up to $4,500 a year to pay for college classes and some academic fees. While service members currently enrolled in classes can finish out the term, new requests for tuition assistance won’t be permitted, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Defense press service.

“It is not indefinite,” said Jay Kendall, veterans’ services officer for Miami County. The military branches will revisit the step at the beginning of next fiscal year on Oct. 1, he said, “but it has been terminated for the rest of this year.”

Tuition assistance is separate from other programs that fund service members’ education, Kendall explained, including the GI Bill.

A message on the Marines official website indicates that active Marines may still obtain tuition funding through the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Kendall said most counties won’t be affected by the tuition assistance suspension, but Miami, home to Grissom Air Reserve Base, has about 15 to 20 young service members who’ll likely be affected.

Cass County veterans services officer Larry Lowry is unaware of any active service members residing in Cass County who are using tuition assistance, he said, and in any case there are still several weeks left until the end of most college terms, during which time the armed services may reinstate the program.

“I’m not too concerned, since we’re into the second semester and we’ve got a few weeks before we have to worry about that,” Lowry said.

Some Miami County tuition assistance recipients may opt to switch to GI Bill education funding to continue their college classes, he said. That bill funds college for up to three years, including tuition plus a living allowance.

That’s also what most of the 300-plus veterans enrolled in Ivy Tech’s Kokomo region are using, according to financial aid associate director Brenda Hamilton.

But service members who go that route are “kind of tapping from the future to pay for the present, that’s what’s happening,” said Kendall.

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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