Congress restores military tuition assistance
by SHANE DUNAWAY
Mar 23, 2013 | 4591 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pell City High School student Nicholas Ritch serves as a cadet captain with the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon graduating high school, he plans to join the Air National Guard as a combat controller and attend college, using military tuition assistance to fund his education.
Pell City High School student Nicholas Ritch serves as a cadet captain with the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. Upon graduating high school, he plans to join the Air National Guard as a combat controller and attend college, using military tuition assistance to fund his education.
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When Congress passed House Resolution 933 Thursday, a collective sigh of relief could be heard across the nation from high school seniors and individuals serving in the Armed Forces.

Section 8129 (a) of the proposed resolution requires secretaries of each military department to reinstate its tuition assistance programs for members of the armed forces through the end of the fiscal year.

“I was very relieved to hear the decision from Congress,” said Nicholas Ritch, a senior attending Pell City High School who plans to join the Air National Guard as a combat controller. “It reassured me that I would be able to pursue my degree.”

The 841-page resolution, known as the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act 2013, called for more responsible cuts in the wake of the sequester beginning March 1.

“I was encouraged to see the tuition assistance program did not remain suspended,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks. “It is my hope the Obama Administration will use the flexibility provided in this bill to help the Department of Defense make common sense budgetary decisions to help maintain our military readiness while dealing with the indiscriminate cuts from sequestration.”

In an Associated Press report published Thursday, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., fought in favor of reinstating the program, calling it a vital tool for recruitment and retention.

“This is something I have talked about to our troops in the field,” Inhofe said during a brief debate in the Senate on Wednesday. “Many of them were so alarmed that it was

even suggested they would take away the very thing that caused them to enlist in the first place.”

Eligible members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard may apply for tuition assistance. Each service has its own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, application process and restrictions, all of which can be found on a chart displayed at http://www.military.com/education/money-for-school/tuition-assistance-ta-program-overview.html.

When military officials across the board made the initial decision to suspend their military tuition assistance programs in early March, Americans nationwide made their feelings known via a petition on whitehouse.gov.

The petition “Reinstate Military Tuition Assistance (TA) and block the Armed Service Branches from any further suspension of TA” created March 8 needed 100,000 signatures by April 7 to prompt Congress to act on the issue. In less than two weeks, more than 116,000 people signed the petition.

Ritch, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet captain, said he followed the news updates regarding the tuition assistance program regularly.

“I wasn’t too happy about the decision to suspend tuition assistance because it was one of the main reason for me choosing to serve,” Ritch said. “I was considering changing my plans and not going into combat control. If the suspension had stood, I would have still joined the military, but on active duty in the security forces career field.

“I did talk a few of my friends in JROTC about the program’s suspension. We were all legitimately concerned about it.”

Now Ritch, who said he’s considered the military as a career path since he was in first grade, won’t have to go with Plan B.

Congress anticipates President Barack Obama will sign HR 933 in the coming days.

Contact Shane Dunaway at sdunaway@dailyhome.com