Preserving Tuition Assistance In Uncertain Times
Keep college dreams funded
April 24, 2013 by Mark Dye
Almost all of us have heard about the federal government’s “sequestration” and how it would cut billions of dollars in government spending, including substantial amounts from the military. Even though service members’ pay was going to be protected, cuts to other areas would have had a large impact on military families. Some of the proposed cuts that had caused the most alarm were those to tuition assistance (TA).
Thankfully, these cuts have been put on hold and TA has been saved… at least for now. The truth is that no one is quite sure what will happen after Congress starts up budget negotiations again in the fall of 2013—will TA get the same level of funding as it has in the past? Will it be less? Will it exist at all?
While each branch handles TA in different ways, every military family receiving TA needs to do a few things now to prepare for any potential changes:
- Immediately contact your Education Service Officer (ESO), as they can provide you much more detailed information on what options you have given your time in service, branch, etc. This is a step you must take (and the sooner, the better).
- File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), if you haven’t already done so. It’s not difficult to do and can help you get Pell Grants and other federal tuition assistance.
- Search out scholarships, as there many of them available, especially for those in the military. Make a list of those you’re most qualified for, find out what they need from applicants and get that information together, and then start applying.
- Find out how your school is handling these cuts, as some might help you find ways to cover all or part of your tuition. For example, Park University (one of the top schools for service members) is offering emergency scholarships (PDF) to those affected by TA cuts; yours might do the same.
- Use your GI Bill benefits only as a last resort. Remember that your benefits are limited: you get only 36 months and, once used, you’ll never get them back. It also depends on which GI Bill you fall under—pre or post-9/11—so ask your ESO for more detailed information.
Hopefully, Congress and the services will find a way to adequately fund TA programs at or above current levels. But if they don’t, these steps can help you prepare for it and ensure that your education continues.