Last week, the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force announced they would suspend the Tuition Assistance program for servicemembers - a program that 300,000 of our brave men and women in uniform depend upon to advance their educations.
While I recognize that sequestration is forcing the Department of Defense to make tough budget decisions, denying educational opportunities to our servicemembers is the wrong way to find savings. We cannot put the burden of addressing our long-term fiscal challenges on the backs of the men and women who serve our country.
That's why, last week I joined Republican Senator Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma in introducing a bipartisan amendment to reinstate the Tuition Assistance program.
I also sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressing my deep concern about the decision to suspend the program.
The need to reinstate the Tuition Assistance program is clear. This program gives our best and brightest the opportunity to continue developing their skills while on duty, which will ultimately lead to smoother transitions into the civilian workforce. At a time of still too-high unemployment this could not be more important.
In the days since Senator Inhofe and I introduced our bipartisan amendment, support from national military and veterans organizations, community colleges, and families personally affected has continued to grow. Prominent groups such as the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) have endorsed the amendment. You can read more about it in the Fayetteville Observer and the Jacksonville Daily News.
While I am disappointed that the Senate failed to reach an agreement to consider amendments to the continuing resolution, including the bipartisan Inhofe-Hagan amendment, I am not giving up. I am proud to report that Senator Inhofe and I have introduced a bipartisan standalone bill to reinstate the Tuition Assistance program.
Passing this legislation will help ensure servicemembers like George Sendelbach have a clear path forward. George joined the National Guard because he thought it would give him the experience he needed to succeed in college and the means to afford it. Today, he is still serving in the National Guard and is one year away from earning a degree from NC State University. But since the Army suspended the Tuition Assistance program, he isn't sure how he'll pay for the rest of his courses.
George deserves far more, and so do the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers in North Carolina and across the country who want to complete a degree, earn college credit or finish a high school diploma.
We must keep our promises to our servicemembers. They have never given up on this country, and I won't give up working to restore this program.
P.S. To keep up with my work on behalf of our North Carolina servicemembers and families, please follow me on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram (senatorkayhagan).