The Marine Corps announced Tuesday it has slashed tuition assistance by 75 percent for servicemembers who take classes on their off-duty time.
The change went into effect immediately and reduces the maximum education assistance available from the Department of Defense standard of $3,500 per year to just $875 per year for Marines — about enough to cover two university courses, according to a service-wide bulletin.
The Marine Corps said the new rate is equal to the average class load taken on by Marines who use the tuition assistance program and is a more focused use of the service’s tuition funds.
Cuts in military tuition assistance programs have been expected this year as Washington wrestles with reducing costs, though the Marines are the first to enact any changes, said Stephanie Styll, a spokeswoman for University of Maryland University College Asia at Yokota Air Base in mainland Japan.
“We’ve been anticipating the changes to tuition assistance for all the branches of service,” Styll said. “We’ve really been beefing up our training on federal financial aid as well as veterans’ benefits.”
It was not immediately clear Tuesday how many students may be affected by the cut or if any will be forced to drop classes due to a lack of tuition, she said.
But the tuition assistance provided directly by the Marine Corps and other military services are highly popular among the university students, Styll said.
“That’s the way that most of our military students finance their education currently,” she said. “We are not really sure what the impact is going to be.”
The new tuition rules will also require any Marine taking tuition assistance to be on their first permanent duty station for at least one year, which is already a rule enforced by the Navy.
The Marine Corps in Japan did not immediately return requests for comment.
In its announcement, the service said it made the decision to cut following an analysis of the tuition assistance program that confirmed most Marines only use the funding for four to five semester credit hours per year, which the service valued at about $875.
Meanwhile, other forms of public assistance for servicemembers have grown, including the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and some military training can be turned into college credits, according to the release.
The various choices “afford all eligible Marines, especially first-term Marines, the opportunity to start the process to pursue their higher education goal,” the service said.