I think it is a good time to see how things have settled out, now that the military tuition assistance fray has ended (at least for now).
Marine Corps Tuition Assistance – Although the Marine Corps was the first to suspend tuition assistance, it seems Congress didn’t notice until the Army announced their decision to suspend TA a couple of weeks later. When the Corps reinstituted TA, they brought it back at the full level as directed by Congress. This means that Marines can continue to get up to 100% TA, with a per unit cap of $250 and an annual cap of $4,500 for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Army Tuition Assistance – The Army was not the first to declare the end of tuition assistance, but, their decision made the biggest noise. After drawing congressional attention, and the subsequent order to reinstate, the Army program picked up where it left off, with no new conditions.
Air Force Tuition Assistance – Not long after the Army announced their decision, the Air Force followed suit. Like the Army, the Air Force restarted TA with no new conditions for airmen who want to use their TA benefit.
Navy Tuition Assistance – Unlike the other services, the Navy never stopped their TA program. It is important to note that the Navy has always had more stringent eligibility requirements and a lower cap on annual usage and as a result TA is not as big a hit on their budget as the other services.
Coast Guard Tuition Assistance – Shortly after the Air Force announced their decision to suspend the Coast Guard did the same. Prior to suspending TA, the Coast Guard had a reputation for being the most generous when it came to eligibility – allowing active-duty, reserve, and civilian employees to use the program. However, the Coast Guard was the last service to bring TA back online and when they did, they added some significant eligibility restrictions. Now the tuition assistance program is only open to active duty enlisted E-6 and below and TA can only be used for undergraduate level coursework.
As of this posting, the National Guard and Reserve appear to be the only groups to have lost access to federally funded tuition assistance – unless they are currently activated.
Although Tuition Assistance is back in play, all the service branches made it clear that military tuition assistance is only safe until the end of this fiscal year. Come October 1, 2013, tuition assistance cuts may be back on the table.
A word to the wise – use it while you have it, because you may not have it long.