For transparency’s sake, I am an Army wife of a deployed soldier in Afghanistan who is pursuing his degree using U.S. Army tuition assistance and — later — the original G.I. Bill.
Career College Central recently posted part of an Inside Higher Ed article on their site titled, "End of a Military Full Ride?" The article detailed Washington rumors that the Department of Defense is looking to change its tuition assistance by making active-duty military students responsible for up to 25 percent of tuition costs. While there is no official confirmation yet, insiders are claiming that it’s only a matter of time before the DOD announces some kind of tuition assistance cut.
Let me begin by saying that giving soldiers a full ride on education is a small price to pay for what they do. U.S. military service members of all branches have more than paid for their rights to free or low-cost education by unconditionally serving this country, as well as protecting our freedom, safety and missions. Service members sign their names on the dotted line to agree to pay whatever price necessary in order to protect and serve this great nation. And for many soldiers and their families, that means paying the ultimate sacrifice.
The sacrifice of lives, the very real possibility that a loved one overseas may not make it back home, is a constant risk and fear for military families of soldiers who are or will be deployed. Let’s face it – soldiers get paid less to get shot at for a living than most of us do in our comfy office jobs. The Department of Defense’s tuition assistance already doesn’t necessarily cover 100% of the costs for active-duty soldiers, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill system has had its flaws from the beginning. In addition to these proposed military education cuts, they’ve also put health insurance and other benefits that military families receive on the chopping block more than once. It’s a real shame.
In my humble opinion, it is our duty and responsibility to make it possible for military individuals to pursue a worthwhile education at little or no cost in order to make up for that enormous gap in their contribution and sacrifice and their actual compensation. Most loyal Americans would be greatly disheartened to learn the salaries of our soldiers who spend a year at a time away from their families, travel to third-world countries and live in tents without common luxuries, and are in constant life-threatening risk during that time. These education and health benefits, among a few others, are crucial components for repaying these service members for their hard work and dedication.
Finding a new career path and landing a job post-deployment or post-military has proved to be a frequent topic of discussion lately. According to the L.A. Times last month, unemployment is in the double digits for recently returned veterans and is “poised to get worse.” My husband will attest to the fact that many soldiers feel uncertainty and fear for what will happen to them as they transition from military career to a civilian career.
A great education from a trade school or university can make the difference between veterans who succeed and veterans who don’t after they have completed their military service. We can and should provide that for them.
By Heather Physioc