Tuition Assistance Cutbacks Coming

With the release of the President’s proposed 2012 Defense Budget, professionals and amateurs all over are talking about various parts of the budget.  One area that has been relatively quiet is the issue of the Tuition Assistance (TA) budget.  However, it is relatively inevitable that the TA program is going to be subject to cuts with everything else.

At the Council of College and Military Educators annual conference this week, the Chief of Continuing Education Programs, Carolyn Baker**, spoke to the entire conference membership, and also presented a two-part breakout session.  During her talks, she stated that “The current program growth is unsustainable,” citing increased demand and rapidly increasing tuition costs.  She also stated that the previously promised increase in TA rates is not going to happen.

As our federal government progresses further into this period of fiscal austerity, it is inevitable that many of the military’s benefits are going to suffer budget cutbacks.  As you know, I absolutely believe that the current Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits are unsustainable.  Even without Chief Baker’s comments, it seems inevitable that the Tuition Assistance program will also be cut.

There are two ways to approach these undeniable changes:  one is to fight against them, and one is to maximize the usage of these benefits before the changes occur.  Both are important.  While it is unlikely that we can prevent future changes to these programs, we can fight to preserve the current benefits for people currently in the system.  Grandfathering in current users will protect them from an erosion of benefits and is ultimately more likely to succeed than fighting to maintain the current programs into the future.

Also, look closely at your individual situation and see how you can utilize your education benefits sooner.  Just as an example, I lost MyCAA eligibility when the new program took effect in October 2010.  I was not prepared to pursue my educational goals at that exact time, but I did not want to waste those benefits.  I am currently taking classes and while it is not the ideal time for my family, it is working out OK so far.  Perhaps you could try to take one class now and see how it goes.

With the financial instability in our world today, it is foolish to assume that the military’s educational benefits will remain the same.  Please do what you can to utilize those benefits now, and prepare yourself for the possibility that they might not be available in the future.

Carolyn Baker’s full title is so wordy that it makes the sentence unreadable.  She is the Chief of the Department of Defense Continuing Education Programs and works in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.  This office is a part of the Personnel and Readiness office of the Department of Defense.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • USAFTSgt

    While it’s good advice to get your education sooner rather than later, I’d like to remind everything that this is an UNOFFICIAL SOURCE, and editiorial commentary at that. This is not grounded in fact, this is not coming from a military leader, and it’s not set in stone that TA will go away. It’s supposition, and KATE is doing more to create rumors and unrest than anything productive.

    • KateKashman

      Thanks for your comments USAFTSgt. I certainly hope that everyone here understands that this in an unofficial source and that these comments are my opinions. I make every effort to make that perfectly clear in all my writing, and also in the disclaimer located here at the site.

      I have no reason to believe that TA benefits are going to go away. I do, however, have excellent (and supported) reasons to believe that TA benefits will be cut. I believe it is my responsibility to make sure that my readers know that a DoD official is stating that the benefits are “unsustainable” and that also states that TA increases will not be happening.

      I have put an update at the bottom of the article to more fully explain the position held by Ms. Baker, the DoD official quoted in the article. As with all things DoD, her title is awfully wordy and including it in full in the text makes the content of her statements harder to understand.

      I appreciate your concern and hopefully some readers will find your comments helpful. I also hope that your comments will inspire readers to think carefully about the educational benefits currently available and how they might use those benefits before any changes might occur.