U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today said he is pleased the president signed legislation that restores funding for the Department of Defense tuition assistance program -- something that Barber called for last week.
"Tuition for educational expenses is a promise that we made to the men and women who stepped forward to serve our nation," Barber said today. "I understand the need for the Department of Defense to make cuts because of sequestration, but this is an area where cuts are unacceptable."
In Arizona, 81 educational institutions participate in the military tuition assistance programs, with many of those schools operating multiple campuses.
Pima Community College has more than 200 Air Force students taking classes and receiving tuition assistance and the University of Arizona has nearly 40 Army and Air Force students using the program.
Last week, Barber wrote a letter to the Pentagon that was signed by 45 of his colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle calling for the reinstatement of funding for the tuition assistance program.
The letter was signed by 42 Democrats and four Republicans from 23 states plus Guam and the District of Columbia.
The military tuition assistance programs pay up to $250 per semester hour for active duty personnel, or as much as $4,500 per year. But because of cuts required under sequestration, the programs were suspended by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Navy had not suspended its program.
Today, President Obama signed a Continuing Resolution that funds the government for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year, preventing a government shutdown.
That legislation, which Barber voted for, prevents the Department of Defense from ending the tuition assistance program. It allows for funding of the program, however that funding will be subject to the 7 percent cuts mandated by sequestration for the entire department.
Barber is opposed to sequestration, the across-the-board, indiscriminate budget cuts that went into effect March 1. He has been a vocal advocate for Border Patrol agents, civilian defense employees and others who are facing the negative effects of sequestration.