The recent suspension of Tuition Assistance programs for active service members has raised a lot of questions. Here are some answers, as well as some information on your other options to pay for courses.
If you are an active member of the U.S. military – as well as a student enrolled in an online degree program or an on-ground program – the military tuition assistance sequester cuts have undoubtedly left you with a lot of questions about how you can continue to pursue your education.
Here are a few answers.
Can I still take classes if the Tuition Assistance was approved prior to the suspension?
Yes. Service members currently enrolled in courses approved for tuition assistance are not affected and are allowed to complete their current courses. The suspension affects new requests for tuition assistance. Service members are not permitted to submit any new requests for Tuition Assistance.
How long is the Tuition Assistance program going to be suspended?
The decision will be re-evaluated if the budgetary situation improves.
Are changes to Tuition Assistance expected when the program is reactivated?
Those decisions have not been made yet.
Are any other educational programs expected to be cut or modified?
Not at this time, but all Defense Department programs are being reviewed.
What other options are available to military service members to help pay for college while still serving?
While, tuition Assistance has been a key benefit paid to eligible service members, there are other options for financial assistance.
Apply for federal student aid: Federal financial aid and federal grants are another option. To be considered, you must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Plan on completing the FAFSA as soon as possible for the upcoming Summer classes.
Tip: If you are currently serving on active duty, when you file your FAFSA, you will need to report the value of taxable combat pay and special combat pay in Question 43. You should also report the value of any military living allowance you receive in Question 44, except the value of on-base housing or the value of a basic housing allowance. Any non-education veteran's benefits should be included in your response to Question 44, along with the value of VA Educational Work-Study allowances.
Apply for scholarships: There are virtually countless outside scholarships available, in addition to numerous databases you can use to search for scholarship opportunities. Keep in mind that you should never pay a fee for scholarship searches.
Use your VA benefits: Veterans, as well as active service members, may continue to pursue their educational goals with VA education benefits, if applicable, that include: the Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty (Chapter 30), Montgomery GI Bill®-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606), Reserve Education Assistance Program (Chapter 1607), and The Post 9/11 GI Bill®.
If you decide to do so and the Tuition Assistance program resumes, you will be able to place your VA benefits on hold and start using TA again.
Most importantly, talk to your institution's financial aid counselors. They are experts and can guide you during this time.
Image Credit: U.S. Department of Defense