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Air Force reinstates tuition assistance program

Apr. 10, 2013 - 05:53PM   |  

The Air Force has restarted tuition assistance one month after shutting it down because of sequestration’s across-the-board budget cuts.

The service intends to pay 100 percent of tuition costs for qualified airmen through fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30, said Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley.

There will not be any restrictions on what courses airmen can take for the rest of the fiscal year, Tingley said.

Air Force officials have said they expect tuition assistance to return in 2014, but the benefits are unlikely to be as substantial. For example, the service is considering a limit on the types of approved courses, and covering the tuition costs at 75 percent.

The Air Force programmed $128 million for tuition assistance this fiscal year, Tingley said. As of March 11, when the program was halted, the Air Force had allocated about $110 million. Air Force officials estimated they would need to divert up to $90 million from another part of the budget to pay for tuition assistance through the end of the fiscal year. It is unclear where that money would come from.

The service would need about $200 million to pay for tuition assistance in 2014 if no changes are made — $100 million more than requested, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said in a video message to airmen shortly after the program was suspended.

The Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard halted the program after sequestration cuts took effect March 1. Members of Congress demanded that the Defense Department reinstate the program, and included that requirement in legislation funding the federal government through the end of fiscal 2013. The continuing resolution, signed March 27 by President Obama, required the services to keep providing tuition assistance, but left it up to the services to manage the rules and funding for program.

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