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Secretary of the Army - John McHugh: Restore and Modify Tuition Assistance

This petition made change with 407 supporters!


UPDATE: Our Marine Corps brothers and sisters have included the Army in their petition.  We now have over 6,600 signatures and ask that you sign both, but be certain to go to the Marine Petition.   http://www.change.org/RestoreTuitionAssistance

 

Over 200,000 enlisted members of the Army have been using an incentive called Tuition Assistance. This is an educational program that allows a service member to attend college or vocational training and the military helps to off-set some or most of the cost. This is not the GI Bill, but is a program that can only be used while a service member is on active duty. In some cases it was used by the service member as a way to plan on how they would do their military contract when they signed up. It isn't a program that can be used over and over, but one where you have one shot at a single level of education (AA Degree to BA to MA). If you fail a course, you have to pay back the money. Once you earn a degree, say a BA, you can only use it to get an MA. If you use it to get an MA, that's it.

The Army version of the program paid up to a maximum of $250 per credit hour for TUITION with an annual cap of $4,500 per year. It does not pay for books. It also means that if the Soldier is going for a graduate degree or has chosen a program that costs more than $250/hr, then they pay for the cost difference out of their own pocket. My daughter, an NCO, is in a graduate program, so her out-of-pocket tuition cost,per class, is $225, plus books and fees with Tuition Assistance.  Without it, that cost is well over $1,000 per class.

Education improves not just the person, but also the Army. What the Army did was just sleezy and underhanded. On Thursday, March 7, the Army announced that they were stopping the program as of 5pm March 8. If you were already in a class or signed up for a class, then they would pay for that. If not, tough luck. This wasn't some big announcement, but was learned by accident by people around the world. Then the next shoe fell, instead of stopping the program at 1700, by 1000 the program was closed. Soldiers around the world were literally standing in line, hours before the previously stated deadline, to be told, "too bad, we shut it down early".

When my Soldier initially signed up, she gave up her GI Education Bill rights to take a far less valuable incentive program (SLRP), under the promise of this program being in place, which would allow her to earn her Masters degree while serving. With it being cut, the Army has effectively lied to over 200,000 Soldiers. The Soldiers have been screwed over with no notice nor chance to do a contingency plan.

We are not alone in this outrage.  The VFW has written a very good article on their take on the situation and why this is such a bad idea. This includes why trying to use the GI Bill instead is NOT what a Soldier should do.  You can read the VFW's comments at this link...

http://thevfw.blogspot.com/2013/03/no-tuition-assistance-no-problem.html

I would have no problem is they had cut say 12% off the annual cap, to bring it down from $4,500 to $4,000 per year. That exceeds the sequester rules. Instead they just shut it down completely. That means our Soldiers who are trying to better themselves have just been given a $4,500 pay cut, with a day's notice. Now, it became less than a day's notice.

The cost of the Army program is $380 million per year. That is the cost of 2/3rd of a single F-35 fighter plane (that isn't needed or wanted). Remember this number, 201,000 Soldiers are enrolled in the TA program.

An educated military is a top military. Our Soldiers were given promises that they based decisions on, contractual and patriotic decisions. Our Soldiers are fulfilling their end of the contract, but the Army is ignoring it's side of the bargain.

In my Soldier's case, she cannot afford the full cost of a graduate program on what she earns as an E-5. She does not have the option of using the GI Bill, because it isn't in her contract, due to the promise of TA. This applies to many thousands in the Army. In other instances, you have members who made the decision to give their benefits to their spouse or children, in exchange for 10 years of service. The carrot of TA would allow them to better themselves too. This has now been destroyed by the callous and uncaring nature of the Department of the Army.

I am a veteran. My family has had military members in the service of our country since the Revolutionary War. This action is a disgrace and must be reversed.

We do not ask that you bring Tuition Assistance back to the $4,500 per year cap level, but make it available. Even a 20% annual cut, to $3,600 maximum per year is better than to have it completely destroyed.

 



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