U.S. Senators Kay Hagan and Jim Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent the termination of the Tuition Assistance program for servicemembers. The bill would limit the program's funds from being reduced beyond the overall percentage by which the Services' Operations and Maintenance accounts are cut because of sequestration.
"Denying educational benefits to our men and women in uniform is not the way to get our fiscal house in order," said Hagan. "Many of our servicemembers join the forces with the goal of advancing their educations, and we must keep our promises to them. While I am disappointed that the Senate will not vote on the bipartisan Inhofe-Hagan amendment, I am proud to join Senator Inhofe in introducing this bipartisan legislation to reinstate the Tuition Assistance program. Our servicemembers have never given up on our country, and I refuse to give up on them. I urge our colleagues in the Senate to join us in ensuring our servicemembers have the educational opportunities they have earned."
"Sen. Hagan and I are determined to see the military tuition assistance program restored immediately for our hardworking, active-duty service members," said Inhofe. "This is an earned benefit that not only assists in recruiting and retention efforts for our all-volunteer force, but it also improves the lives of our men and women as they seek leadership opportunities within the military. Furthermore, our youngest veterans are currently facing high unemployment rates upon exiting the service. We are doing our brave military members and America a disservice if we take away a program that can be critical in assisting their re-entry into the civilian workforce. I applaud the Navy's recent decision to maintain the tuition assistance program, which goes to show education benefits can and should be prioritized. As our nation's defense faces unprecedented budget cuts, it's critical we reestablish the right priorities to support our military and this bill starts us on that path."
The legislation was first introduced by Hagan and Inhofe as an amendment to the Senate's year-long funding resolution. However, the Senate could not reach agreement on additional amendments to consider and voted Monday to end debate on the resolution.
In early March, the Marines, Army and Air Force abruptly suspended Tuition Assistance for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. Those currently enrolled were eligible to complete coursework, but no new students were permitted to enroll. The military branches reported the cuts were a result of budgeting issues related to sequestration and they expect to save $250-300 million from its termination. The Tuition Assistance program allows servicemembers to attend school part time while serving their nation. Last year, military members took 870,000 courses and earned more than 50,000 degrees diplomas, and certificates.