WASHINGTON, D.C.–U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has joined Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to introduce an amendment reinstating the Tuition Assistance program for servicemembers. In the wake of sequestration, the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps have decided to suspend Tuition Assistance benefits, which are designated for active duty servicemembers. Earlier this week, Hagan sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressing her deep concern about the decision.
In FY2012, approximately 300,000 servicemembers participated in the Tuition Assistance program. In the same time period, more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas or certificates were earned by active duty servicemembers enrolled in the program. The decision exempts those already receiving aid, but prevents servicemembers from submitting new requests for the assistance.
“We cannot put the burden of addressing our long-term fiscal challenges on the backs of our servicemembers,” said Senator Hagan. “The tuition assistance program gives our best and brightest the opportunity to continue developing their skills while on active duty, which will ultimately lead to smoother transitions to civilian life. Though I understand that the Department of Defense has tough budget decisions to make, I believe that it is shortsighted to completely suspend this program. I urge my colleagues to join me and Senator Inhofe to pass this amendment and reinstate this crucial program.
In the letter Hagan wrote:
“While I recognize that sequestration is forcing the Department of Defense to make difficult budgetary decisions, I believe that denying educational opportunities to our servicemembers is the wrong way to find savings, and I fear this decision will inhibit the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps from developing the highly skilled forces they need to succeed in this current environment.
In the letter, Hagan also emphasizes the importance of Tuition Assistance in helping to ensure servicemembers are prepared to enter the civilian workforce when they leave the military.
“Tuition Assistance also enhances the professionalism of the Active, Guard, and reserve forces by helping servicemembers more fully develop their skills, serves as an important tool to retain them in the military, and prepares those who choose to leave the military for a successful transition into the civilian workforce.”