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Military tuition cuts: A tangible sequester impact

A faculty member of the The United States Military Academy takes a a photo of the graduation and commissioning ceremony May 26, 2012 in West Point, N.Y.

It's been ten days since those automatic spending cuts went into effect, and there are folks making tough decisions all across the country. Two branches of the military -- the Army and the Marines -- have decided they're not taking any new applications for a program that offers tuition assistance to active duty service members. 

Last year, more than half a million of them got that help, to go to night school, to take classes online. Gordon Adams, a professor at the American University School of International Service, calls the program “useful.” 

“They can both get a degree and do their active service at the same time,” Adams said.

According to Adams, this is a popular program, and in the context of the whole Pentagon budget, it’s not that expensive. All branches of the military spent just half a billion dollars on tuition assistance last year. 

But Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says it’s an attention-grabber. It’s the kind of cut that leads constituents to call Congress. “'Wait a second -- these kids who sacrificed so much for us, you mean you’re going to prevent them from going to school?'”

This won’t affect service members who are currently getting tuition benefits, but it is sure to affect many of the schools they’re enrolled in -- especially for-profit colleges and universities. Last year, more than two-thirds of these benefits paid for “distance learning” classes.

The recommendation to freeze tuition benefits came from the Secretary of Defense’s budget advisor. 

“Under sequestration, we’ve got to cut roughly $46 billion says Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Defense Department spokesperson. “That’s about 9 percent from every Defense account except for military personnel funding.”

The Navy and the Air Force say they will make announcements on their own tuition-assistance programs soon. In the meantime, the Army says it will consider reinstating the benefits for active duty soldiers if the budget situation improves. 

To be clear, these cuts don’t affect veterans. The GI Bill -- a much larger program -- is sequester-proof.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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What we need to do is redefine what we want our military to do. We need to stop being the worlds police and cut back on the scope of what we expect our military to accomplish. Then we can budget accordingly. What I don't like are forcing budget cuts, and then saying "you still have the same responsibilities".

Is anyone deceived as to what's really going on here?

Big Zero is crazy like a fox. He's removing all the FAMILY-ORIENTED incentives to enlist -- tuition assistance, on-base schools, commissaries, "restructuring" the entire military insurance program (if you thought it was horrid before -- and it was -- just wait 'til it looks like Obamacare) that previously attracted good kids from lower-income families who just want a chance at the American dream. And who will step in to fill the hole? The newly-legalized homosexual activists who just want a chance at a soapbox. Seriously, less than 5% of homosexual couples in the states where same-sex marriage has been legalized have any interest in getting married theirownselves, they're just Making A Point. So just imagine how family-related payouts to military will now drop like the proverbial stone. Oh, and also don't forget, now that abortion is for all intents and purposes FREE, we'll also be seeing a precipitous drop in full-term pregnancies among active-duty women. No families here, nope nope nope.

Please trust me on this, I'm less than a year away from my PhD in economics and my MBA Healthcare military husband tracks these stats as part of his active duty. If you don't believe me now, you will in a year or two.

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