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Officials Seek DOD-wide Tuition Assistance Plan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 – Pentagon officials are reviewing the Defense Department’s tuition assistance policy, and no DOD-wide decision has been made to change benefits, officials said today.

All military services are providing input to the DOD review, officials said. Any recommended changes, they added, must be instituted in a deliberate, thoughtful manner that maintains the integrity of a joint, uniform policy for all service members.

Tuition assistance is a popular benefit for military members, particularly in light of the rising costs of post-secondary education courses.

However, in light of high military participation in the program, officials said the current tuition assistance policy has created funding challenges for the services. During fiscal 2010, tuition assistance costs totaled $542 million, they reported.

In light of current fiscal constraints, the services consider these costs unsustainable, officials said. However, even if adjustments are made to the program, they emphasized that the department will continue to support its members’ higher education goals.

“Opportunities for personal and professional growth have long been a part of military life, and the Department of Defense is committed to helping service members pursue civilian education while in uniform,” Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said today.

Among educational offerings at military commands and installations is access to tuition assistance counselors who provide face-to-face guidance to service members and their families, officials noted.

In addition, the Voluntary Education Program portal addresses a full range of educational issues, from tuition assistance and financial aid to information on more than 1,800 colleges and universities. The portal may be found at http://apps.mhf.dod.mil/voled.

Meanwhile, DOD’s off-duty, voluntary education programs represent one of the world’s largest continuing education program, officials noted. About 300,000 service members enroll in postsecondary courses in year, leading to associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees.

Colleges and universities also deliver classroom instruction through an extensive network to hundreds of military installations around the world.

Easier access to online educational programs -- regardless of where a service member may be assigned or deployed – has sparked higher participation and greater use of educational benefits, officials noted.

This comes at a time when tuition and fees have increased dramatically.

In 2002 the average cost of an undergraduate course enrollment was $276.79, and for graduate work, $461.70, officials said. Today, that same coursework cost $600.40 and $750.00, respectively.

These issues, combined, have created financial conditions that need to be addressed now to preserve the benefit, officials said.

Contact Author

Biographies:
Robert L. Gordon III

Related Sites:
Voluntary Education Program Portal



Comments

Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

11/29/2011 3:19:36 AM
I dont understand why we need a double dipping system at all. We all Get the GI Bill and new enlisted personnel get BAH when they get out and they dont even have to pay for the GI BIll. When I came in we paid for our GI BIll and got a lot less. So why should we be entitled to a college education on active duty then another with the GI BIll? Just USE the GI Bill either during of after service time. All of these double entitlement programs don't help the budget.
- RIp, Ca

10/20/2011 3:15:09 PM
$542 million a year to educate the force is "unsustainable"? In FY10, the services spent a combined $522 million--or $366.73 per active duty member--on TA. Of the DoD FY10 budget of $1.2 trillion, the reportedly "unsustainable" TA spending takes up just 0.0451%. To put that in perspective for other service members, 0.0451% of an E-5's (22911/+8/w dep) annual salary is $22.73! Is the equivalent of $22.73 a year of an E-5's salary too much to spend on the education of our military?
- Moreau, Charlottesville

10/20/2011 12:56:53 PM
It might be in the best interest of DOD to start negotiating down the cost of courses with institutions with the highest number of DOD members and GI Bill member enrollments. Instead of paying the posted rates of courses or the rates the college or university states for members of DOD, negotiate a rate DOD is willing to pay the institution per student. For those insititutions refusing to negotiate a standard acceptable tuition, then set the tuition rate DOD will reimburse the individual and any amount above that level the individual can elect to pay out of pocket. The institutions entering into tuition negotiated rates with DOD can then be published and members can select from those institutions where the courses are fully paid or reimbursed. The same would apply for certification and vocational courses offered through private educational organizations.
- Bill Butler, Wasshington DC

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