(Victor Valley)– – Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA08) announced today he would introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to protect military tuition assistance that has been affected by the sequester. As a result of the sequester, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts, the US Air Force, the Army, the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps have all suspended their tuition assistance programs. The Navy has not yet made a decision. The programs provide active-duty service members with up to $4,500 a year in tuition assistance for college and high school completion courses. While service members currently enrolled in courses will not be affected, they cannot submit new requests for tuition assistance moving forward.
Cook stated, “One of the main benefits of joining the military is the educational tuition benefit. Suspension of these programs will hurt our ability to retain and enlist troops. Many in our armed forces went into combat expecting they would receive this benefit, and now they’ll be scrambling to figure out how to pay for their education. Frankly, I think many of them will be forced to stop going to school.” Cook continued, “Education allows our troops to acquire the skills they need to get jobs when they return. We made a commitment to our armed forces, and we need to honor that commitment.”
In fiscal year 2012, over 201,000 soldiers took advantage of the Army’s tuition assistance program. It provided $373 million, helping 2,831 soldiers earn associate degrees, 4,495 earn bachelor degrees, and 1,946 earn graduate degrees. A member of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the US Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.