Posted: Mar 18, 2013 8:10 PM by Jen Fenter - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - The U.S. Air Force last week announced that it has suspended the tuition assistance program for active-duty members due to forced budget cuts triggered by sequestration.
The popular program pays tuition costs for airmen, up to $4,500 per year. Since that announcement, universities with classes offered at Malmstrom Air Force Base are feeling the impact.
"We had one class with 17 students and in a day it went to just seven. We've canceled two classes, so we're definitely looking at a hit," Teresa Rivenes of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University said.
Rivenes says it's heartbreaking to see airmen have to withdraw from their education, since so many of them use their education benefits to advance their careers.
"It's their whole career. If they want to continue to advance in their career, they have to get their education," Alaina Barrow of Park University said.
School staff members are working to help their students in any way that they can; Park University is even offering an emergency scholarship to help.
"If they're not eligible for financial aid, Pell Grants, not loans, or if they've already given their spouses or children their GI Bill, then that's where this emergency scholarship kicks in," Barrow said.
While emergency funding is helping students get by, it's a temporary solution, and staff are hoping the Tuition Assistance program gets reinstated.
"We can't continue with something like this, ultimately it will impact the way we're able to offer services,"Rivenes said.
Rivenes believes cutting the assistance isn't fair to our troops, and that civilians could quit a job if benefits believed to be there disappeared - but airmen can not simply walk away.
U.S. Air Force officials have hinted that the program will be reinstated at the start of the next fiscal year in October, but it may look a little different.
Supporters of the program have also submitted a petition to the White House website have the program reinstated more immediately. Click here to view the petition.