Stockbridge, Ga: military tuition assistance debates leaves many curious about future education.

By CARLEESHA FREEMAN

Carla Howard, 42, is afraid her son will not be able to pursue his goals of going to college through the military due to the threatened changes with tuition assistance.                 

Howard, a retired Army veteran, has been the JROTC instructor at South Cobb High School in Austell, Ga., for about a year now. She said the students that she is instructing have boundless dreams about joining the military and afterward attending college, using the benefit of receiving up to 40 percent of tuition assistance in exchange for their service.                        “With all the ongoing debates about whether or not military personnel will be able to keep receiving military benefits has me sort of worried and definitely concerned,” said Howard. “I honestly don’t know what the future holds after this fiscal year.”                         

Marquis Howard, 22, is a full-time active duty member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Upon completing his first semester at Gordon College in Barnesville, Ga., he decided to join the military, thinking it would help him later with college.

“One of the main reasons why I even considered joining the military was for the sole fact that I would be able to continue to receive an education in the process,” said Marquis Howard.     

“For the government to even consider taking away something so vital and important to those who put their country first is kind of like a slap in the face. We do so much,” he said.  

Tuition Assistance

The Military Tuition Assistance program provides financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education programs in support of a soldier’s professional and personal self-development goals. According to GOARMYED, Tuition Assistance is available for courses offered in the classroom or by distance learning. According to the Department of Defense, it has directed a uniform tuition assistance fiscal policy across the military services. The per semester hour cap is $250 and the fiscal year ceiling is $4500.        

On March 8, 2013, the Army announced it would suspend its tuition assistance program for soldiers newly enrolled in classes due to sequestration and other budgetary pressures according to stripes.com. Paul Prince, an army personnel spokesman at the Pentagon said, “This suspension was necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration.”

All branches of the armed forces except the Navy did temporarily suspend tuition assistance due to sequestration budget cuts. The suspension caused controversy, but each branch eventually reinstated its program. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a variety of amendments to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act last week, which prohibits the military from suspending tuition assistance without congressional approval, according to U.S. News University.

Even though Carla Howard paved the way for her children to pursue a college education, she also wanted them to establish a sense of stability in other ways as well.                           

“It is really a tough world that we live in, being extremely hard for people, especially people like my son to choose the right direction and make life-changing decisions that essentially will either help or hurt them,” said Carla Howard. “It’s really sad that it is becoming harder.”

Marquis Howard spends most of his days either out on the field working as a combat engineer or in training sessions getting ready for possible deployment.                                                         He says he has no regrets about his decision to join the military being blind to the fact that something that he essentially wanted the most could be easily taken away.

 “You know sometimes the circumstances that are given are not exactly what we planned,” he said. “I will continue to do what I came here to do, in hopes that I will still be able to receive the higher education that I desperately want and need. There’s still time, [I] just have to learn patience.”

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