An About Face By The Marines

Marines

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On October 25 I posted an article at rightwinggranny.com about the plan by the Marines to cut tuition assistance to Marines taking college courses. One Marine who is taking courses sent an email stating that he had written his Senators and Representative about the matter. Well, on Wednesday the Marine Corps announced that they had significantly modified their plan.

The Marine Corps Times reported yesterday that an administrative message had been sent out stating that tuition reimbursement levels had been restored to their 2011 levels. The message stated:

“There has been no commensurate increase to tuition assistance funding allocated for FY-12. Therefore, all Marines are encouraged to wisely utilize tuition assistance to maximize Marine Corps financial resources. … Even with prudent utilization measures in place it is likely that FY-12 tuition assistance funds will be exhausted well before the end of FY-12.”

In true government fashion:

Marine Corps spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney said the return to the 2011 policy was ordered by the Defense Department, but said the Marine Corps 2012 TA budget is still expected to be only $28 million, or just over half the 2011 budget.

Under some circumstances, this might be okay–sometimes government agencies feel obligated to spend all of the money allocated them so that they will receive more funds the following year. That concept is called baseline budgeting and means that all government budgets increase at a certain amount every year. If the budget for a department stays the same rather than increasing, it is considered a cut. That is why despite Congressional claims of budget cuts, the amount of federal spending never goes down. The information not given in the article is exactly what the amount of the Marine Corps budget for tuition assistance was last year and what the amount of that budget will be this year.

It is interesting to me that as President Obama is making all sorts of promises to college students about their student loans, his administration seeks to curtail spending on tuition assistance on military personnel taking college courses.

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Devaluing Our Military

I understand that the country is in financial crisis. I understand that we need to cut spending. However, we really do need to look at our priorities.

The federal student loan program is out of control. Tuition costs have risen faster than inflation. It is not unusual for a private college to charge $40,000 a year in tuition. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says students and parents took out a record $100 billion last year, and owe more on student loans — more than $1 trillion is outstanding — than credit cards. But if you want to hear howling, suggest to Congress that the government get out of the student loan program. Don’t look for major budget cuts in the area of student loans by the government.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. A website called GIBIll.com reported on October 19th that the Marines are cutting back tuition assistance by 80 percent. This changes the maximum tuition assistance from $4,500 to $875 per year.

The article reports:

Although these changes to the military’s tuition assistance program were anticipated, it’s still unclear how many students will be affected and to what extent, Stephanie Styll, a spokeswoman for University of Maryland University College Asia at Yokota Air Base in mainland Japan, told Stars and Stripes newspaper. Some analysts believe other aid such as Pell Grants and GI Bill benefits can help make up the difference for many Marines.

In addition to the cuts, new eligibility rules are being adopted by the Marine Corps, and include requiring Marines receiving tuition assistance to have at least one year of service. Despite the cuts in tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill remain unaffected.

Does anyone see the irony in this? The Marines are cutting tuition assistance and hoping that government Pell Grants will make up some of the difference. The money will still come from the government, just a different department. Not only will this not be a savings, it is just unfair. Our military is made up entirely of volunteers. Anyone who has volunteered in the last ten years probably knew that he (or she) would be involved in a war either in Iraq or Afghanistan. Military pay is awful. Now we are going to take away some of their benefits. Marines are doing something for their country. Their tuition assistance should not be cut unless the government programs that grant money to students are also cut by the same amount. This is just simply wrong.

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