Fight is on to Restore Military Tuition Assistance After Budget Cuts

Mike O'Brien

Efforts are underway to bring back the military’s Tuition Assistant program that was suspended because of the sequester.

A petition on the White House’s website now has more than 100,000 signatures, the figure that usually requires an official response from the President.

The Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Marines have all said they had no option but to do away with the program that offers service members federal funding to further their education. The Navy has taken no action so far.

The petition, which is calling on President Obama to issue an executive order reinstating the TA funding, was posted less than a week ago. Mr. Obama now has 30 days to respond.

Meanwhile in the Senate, several leading figures are pushing to bring back the TA.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement: "The President wants Americans to feel the pain of the arbitrary across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration, but to cut off promised education assistance for our service members when there are other lower priority spending programs to draw from is an injustice."

Along with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mr. Inhofe put forward an amendment on Wednesday to an interim budget bill that would restore the program.

Mr. Inhofe told Fox News he believes dropping the financial help with tuition would be hurtful to the military in general, adding: "It would hurt retention and our ability to enlist these people."

He described TA as a major motivation for people to enlist. "They can work a little bit harder and be able to get a college degree, and for them to pull that out from under them ...." he said.

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In the last fiscal year, 201,000 soldiers used the program at a cost of $373 million. Soldiers could typically claim up to $4,500 a year to enroll on courses aimed at getting high school and college diplomas.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Congress was responsible for the dropping of TA because it failed to prevent sequestration.

He said: "If sequestration were averted, we may be facing a different set of choices on these and other programs. These are the unfortunate outcomes."

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