Tuition assistance returns for veterans

Student Veterans Tuition Assistance (TA) is back after being suspended for almost a month.

The suspension of the TA program became effective nationwide for military students March 8. However, a bill to restart the TA program was passed March 21.

Yet, it is still unclear how long it will take for tuition assistance to get through the federal funding process and for student veterans to get reimbursed for their money.

TA is a program that helps thousands of military students in the nation pay for college.

Mary Davis, the program specialist for the Veterans Department at South Puget Sound Community College, said TA is a way for active service members and veterans to continue their education. She said TA only covers tuition costs, and not extra fees or supplies.

The reason for the loss of tuition assistance was to give the army immediate cost savings., said Davis.

Impacts of the loss of this federal funding are showing up nationally, but the impacts on each individual institution depends on the flexibility of the school and how well the school is able to support their students through this tough time, she said.

Army Times published an article which read, “Services may make modest cuts in the remaining funding for this year’s TA program as part of broader, across-the-board cuts in the Pentagon budget.”

The article stated that when TA does come back, there is a good chance it will be different from what military students are used to and will not cover as much because of the lack of financial resources.

SPSCC student David Cook is currently a specialist in the United States National Guard as a 27D, a paralegal specialist. Cook was one of the lucky military students at SPSCC who got his TA in before getting denied.

His main reason for joining the military did not include the financial aid benefits, but they were certainly one of the perks, he said.

Cook joined the army three years ago, hoping he could one day be a hero because “that’s what military members are; they’re heroes,” he said.

Being in the National Guard has offered Cook TA and the GI bill. He said the regular GI bill does not cover as much as tuition assistance. TA has helped him cover the costs of tuition for the last year and half while he has been attending SPSCC.

TA also would help cover a good portion of most four-year universities, like Western Washington University, to which he was planning on transfer next year, said Cook.

According to Cook, he was surprised the government took TA away from military members, since it is promised in their contracts when soldiers join the military. He would have struggled to find other means to pay for school without TA, he said.

Other options for military students include the GI bill, federal financial aid, or digging up personal resources, Davis said.

Kathy Rhodes, the dean of enrollment services at SPSCC, said only 37 students at SPSCC used TA this quarter. She said students who were unable to get their TA applied because of the suspension can try to reapply and get reimbursed this quarter.

The government is now focusing on getting the message out that TA is back, but getting applications through and reimbursing students for this quarter might be a slow process considering it has to go through federal funding processes, she said.

According to Rhodes, she hopes TA will be back up and running as usual this summer quarter.

Pierce Community College (PC), which has much larger military student population, was impacted much more by the loss of TA, she said.

Rhodes estimated PC lost about 600-700 students because military members were not able get their TA, and then did not have enough time to prepare a financial alternative before tuition was due.

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