With Tuition Assistance Dried Up, Some Colleges Picking Up the Slack

With thousands of active duty servicemen and women depending on at-risk Tuition Assistance funding, some colleges are cutting them a break. Columbia College, in Columbia, Missouri, for example, has announced that it is deferring tuition costs for any servicemembers whose educational benefits are affected by the shutdown. Students can seek other means of paying their tuition. If students cannot find another way to pay their tuition, the college will allow students to withdraw with no penalty.

Grantham University, a prominent online university based in Kansas City, Missouri, has also committed to its military students that those relying on the Tuition Assistance program or other sources of federal funding can remain enrolled pending the resolution of the shutdown. The University has announced that it will work with each affected student on a case-by-case basis to discuss available funding options including scholarships, grants, VA benefits, corporate tuition reimbursement and financial aid.

Northeastern University, likewise, has announced it will not charge enlisted active-duty servicemembers for tuition “for the time being,” – a move that grants a reprieve to some dozens students who are relying on federal resources like the GI Bill and tuition assistance programs to attend school.

“Surely DoD has existing capacity during the government shutdown to review, process, and approve on a contingent basis pending TA applications that meet current program guidelines,” wrote Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. “This seems all the more likely in light of recent action by Congress to pay civilian employees retroactively—a measure President Obama has pledged to sign into law.“

Austin Peay State University, in Clarksville, Tennessee, serving the Fort Campbell and Middle Tennessee/Cumberland River Valley, has also announced that it will cover the tab for active duty servicemembers. 

Because of the federal shutdown, the Department of Defense has announced that it is not funding applications for Tuition Assistance after the 1st of October. Furthermore, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that if the shutdown is not resolved, or funding is otherwise authorized by Congress and the President by November 1, VA educational benefits will quickly dry up. Secretary Shinseki testified this week that his department has some $6 billion in benefits due November 1, but only about $2 billion on hand to fund them.

Colleges don’t have to extend any such extension or tuition waiver – and many colleges have not done so. Every college is different, and some colleges do not have the financial resources to extend this benefit to military members.

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