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How Automatic Spending Cuts Are Impacting Military Students

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks to troops assigned to the 1/101st Air Assault in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, March 9, 2013.

CREDIT: Flickr/ U.S. Department of Defense

Last Friday the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Marines suspended their Tuition Assistance (TA) programs for all servicemembers in response to the automatic defense spending cuts that are set to take effect due to sequestration. The TA program was designed to help active duty servicemen and women by providing them with financial aid to pay for college while serving their country.

Some young people join the military because they're either financially strapped and/or they lacked the high school performance that would merit scholarships to make a college education more affordable. Tuition Assistance programs are set in place to aid those who out their lives on the line to protect our country in obtaining a higher education. And though the Army has said it "understands the impacts of this decision" that does little to help students like Evan Barre, 19, who serves in the Army National Guard.

"I would say having college paid for probably made up about 80 or 90 percent of the reason I joined" Barre told KTHV in Little Rock, Ark. Now with the suspension of the TA program Evan, along with many other servicemen and women, needs to find a new way to make up the cost of tuition that was covered.

Some lawmakers are speaking out about the sequester-triggered suspension. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Tuesday and urged him to reconsider the decision, and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) proposed legislation Monday that would siphon foreign aid from Egypt to fund the program.

The TA program was hugely popular with active duty soldiers with 201,000 soldiers taking advantage of the Army's TA program in 2012. It provided $373 million in aid, helping 2,831 soldiers earn associate degrees, 4,495 earn bachelor degrees and 1,946 earn graduate degrees. Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) also intends to introduce an amendment that would reverse the suspension, according to his office. Hagan plans on cosponsoring that provision.

In a document provided by www.goarmyed.com, a virtual gateway to request Tuition Assistance for the Army, in the Q&A section the Army states "The Army understands the impacts of this decision and will re-evaluate the decision if the budgetary situation improves." Also the Army stated that they didn't expect any further cuts to educational programs however, "all DoD programs are being reviewed."

Charlie is a communications intern for Campus Progress.

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