News: Sequestration hits tuition assistance
Story by Lance Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Voluntary Education Tuition Assistance for the Marine Corps has been ceased. The Budget Control Act set into motion the automatic, government-wide cuts known as Sequestration, March 4, according to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. This is due to the lack of a budget deal being reached in Congress and also includes numerous other cuts DOD-wide.
“Given that reality and the associated impact of budgetary uncertainty imposed by an indefinite continuing resolution, the Department of the Navy intends to commence some reductions immediately,” Mabus said.
“On Monday morning, we got a call from Headquarters saying to stop processing all Marine Corps TA,” said Erin Keeran, Education and Career Specialist, Life Long Learning Center MCAGCC. “Requests that had been processed prior to that will still be honored but no new TA requests can be processed at this time.”
This means that active duty Marines and sailors, who are already enrolled in classes and have processed their TA forms assigned to those classes, will be able to receive TA benefits for the remainder of those courses. For future class terms, they will have to find other means of paying for school if they intend to continue their education.
“There are still options out there to pay for school,” Keeran said. “Some of the big ones are the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and FastWEB.”
FAFSA is free and available to anyone. The student can fill out the application at www.fafsa.ed.gov to determine which loans and grants are available. FastWEB is a free scholarship search engine. The student creates a profile at www.fastweb.com and answers various questions. Based on those answers, the web site finds scholarships for which the student is qualified.
“One of the best things that comes from the FAFSA is the Pell Grant,” Keeran said. “And many junior Marines do qualify for it. Applying for these things is a lot easier than some think. You just write a short essay; some even make a video. There are also some scholarships that just require you to put your email address in a lottery and you could be selected that way.”
Both the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills are options available to active duty service members as well.
“After two years of active duty service, the Montgomery GI Bill can be activated,” Keeran said. “This gives the student a monthly stipend for up to 36 months and the student is responsible for paying the school themselves with that money. The Post 9/11 GI Bill lasts the same amount of time, except the tuition is paid directly to the school.”
Once activated, both GI Bills can be deactivated at the student’s request and all time used while on active duty will be deducted from the total 36 months available. Active duty service members will not qualify for Basic Allowance for Housing until after their End of Active Service date and if the Department of the Navy reinstates TA, no amount of the GI Bill or credits paid out of pocket will be reimbursed.
“Anyone that’s considering activating their GI Bill should keep in mind that TA may be reinstated at any point in time,” said Keeran. “We’ll just have to see which way the wind blows with this one.”
Apart from the elimination of new TA enrollments, sequestration also means a freeze on civilian hiring, the planning for civilian furloughs and the reduction of all training not related to the readiness of deployed or next-to-deploy forces, Mabus said.
“Navy Department leadership understands the uncertainty that these and other decisions create both amongst our people and in the defense industry upon which we rely,” said Mabus. “The lack of legislative solution to avoid Sequestration is deeply regrettable. That said, we must endeavor to deal with the situation as we face it, not as we wish it could otherwise be.”
The intent of Sequestration is to preserve support for those forces stationed overseas and currently forward deployed. Lower-priority forward operations and significant reductions in all other operations, training and maintenance have been selected for reduction with the intent that the if and when funding is restored that the Department of the Navy may then reverse or quickly restore the cuts that have been made, according to Mabus.
“In order to ensure our continued readiness, we must make sacrifices in other areas,” said Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “As we adjust to the realities of Sequestration, I am very concerned about the impact of such cut backs on our active duty and reserve Marines, our civilian Marines and our Marine families.”
“Everybody is worried about the budget, and I am one of those people,” said Mabus. “Nobody knows for certain what will happen, but I can tell you some things. No pay or benefits for any active-duty military members will be cut. During this drawdown, nobody will have their enlistment cut, and no one will be told to go home before they want to go home.”
Additional cuts include the deferment of Continuing Promise 2013, the United States Navy Ship Comfort’s humanitarian deployment to Central and South America, the cancellation of Blue Angels shows and the reduction of Marine Corps Depot maintenance activities, to include within the non-permanent work force.
While we are working hard to balance our myriad requirements, I want each of you to know that keeping faith with you and your families is a top priority of mine,” Amos said. “I consider this a sacred responsibility.”
“We will continue to keep the safety and well-being of our people foremost in mind, even as we try hard to keep whole the force structure which supports them,” said Mabus. “We will also continue to keep the fleet and Fleet Marine Force fully informed as follow-on decisions are made.”