Earlier this year I wrote that there were some rumblings about the DoD budget cuts possible affect on military tuition assistance. At that time it appeared that the service branches may be preparing to restrict access or reduce the $4,500 annual tuition assistance cap.
At the time I reported that the Chief of Continuing Education Programs, Carolyn Baker, had told the attendees at the Council of College and Military Educators annual conference that the DoD spent $542 million on tuition assistance in 2010 – $24 million more than 2009. Baker pointed out that increased demand and the growing cost of college tuition are putting a financial strain on the DoD budget. “The current program growth is unsustainable,” said Baker.
It appears Congress has taken this into their own hands by adding an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (HR 1540) that would direct the DoD to report on the effects of reducing the current 100% tuition and fees rate by 25%.
Currently servicemembers can get up to 100% of the tuition and fees covered as long as the per semester credit limit of $250 is not exceeded. Anything tuition costs which exceed the per credit hour cap must be paid through secondary sources like their GI Bill benefit, scholarships, grants or out-of-pocket.
If passed by Congress all servicemembers, no matter which branch, may soon have to rely on secondary funding sources to help cover their tuition and fees.
The language of the amendment, offered by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), does not direct DoD to immediately cut the rates, however, it does call for the Defense Secretary to examine the possible effects of a cut. In addition, the amendment directs DoD to look for inefficiencies and duplications of benefits – i.e. servicemember’s ability to use the GI Bill while on active duty.