By Debbie Gregory.
On December 4th, the Army issued a formal statement, announcing the much anticipated changes to their Tuition Assistance (TA) program that will affect all Soldiers in the active and Reserve components. The statement announced that there will be new restrictions and limitations put in place for Army TA, beginning January 1st, 2014.
According to the changes, TA will not be available to Soldiers until one full year after they complete Initial Entry Training (IET). Soldiers in their first year of service in the Army will no longer be able to use the benefit, and will have to wait until their first year has been completed.
The Army also implemented a tighter limit on the type and amount of units that Soldiers utilizing TA can take. Beginning the first of the year, Soldiers can take up to 16 semester hours per fiscal year. Also, a Soldier must complete 10 years of service before using TA to earn a post-baccalaureate degree. However, if a Soldier earned their Bachelor’s degree without using Tuition Assistance, they do not need to wait the 10 years.
Most other policies remain the same. Soldiers are still allowed up to $250 per semester hour. Bachelor’s degrees are capped at 130 units, and Master’s degrees are still at 39 units. And Soldiers who use TA must still utilize an approved degree plan on their GoArmy Ed website.
TA will also remain with the same rules as far as degree/certificate eligibility. TA cannot be used to gain any form of second degree, if a Soldier already possess an equivalent degree from another school or in another subject. For example, if a Soldier already has a Bachelor’s degree, they cannot use TA to get another Bachelor’s degree. And TA still cannot be used for a Soldier to gain such degrees as a PhD, MD or JD. These degrees are considered “first professional degrees”, and the Army has other full-funded programs to aid Soldiers in attaining them. TA will still allow Soldiers to obtain one post-secondary certificate or diploma. TA can also continue to be used for courses leading to initial teacher certification programs.
These changes to Army Tuition Assistance are unfortunate and will affect the education of thousands of Soldiers. But we should be reminded that Tuition Assistance was meant to be a retention tool for the Army, first and foremost. Soldiers are supposed to utilize TA in their off time in order to further their education so that they can rise through the military ranks, not their future civilian careers. These changes were a necessary measure, made to ensure that Army money was spent on the Army and its future. American Soldiers still have access to the greatest education benefits in the world, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill.