MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Students serving in the military could see big changes starting in the summer as many will have trouble finding the money for college.
Going to college can be a daunting experience. The expenses for books, room and board and tuition can add up quickly. For military students around the country, that could be about to change.
The Tuition Assistance program is apparently the latest casualty of the sequestration. The program, which pays up to $250 per semester hour, or $4,500 per year, has been cut from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Marines. An announcement from the Navy is expected at any time.
"Most people can afford higher education," said Director of Public Relations at the University of South Alabama Keith Ayers.
Ayers said even though the Tuition Assistance Program is being cut, there are still ways for military personnel to pay for college.
"We have a fundamental belief that somebody who is dedicated to going to college is going to find a way. Perhaps they may have to be more creative to find those sources. The resources are still very much there," he said.
As of March 1, $85 billion of federal funds that were cut due to the sequestration has a local impact on military students. To some veterans, this cut reflects poor management of funds.
Retired US Air Force Desert Storm Veteran Glenn Swanson said this cut came from the wrong place in the federal budget.
"It doesn't show any signs of giving the people that are giving their country back what they deserve as opposed to making cuts where we really need to make cuts," said Swanson.
For Pat Franklin of Mobile, a mother of a Marine, it hits close to home.
"These guys and these women…they earned every penny of it by giving up their life all these years to be in the military and serve their country. And all that stuff is laid out for them as a promise, not as something that can be taken away at a moment's notice," Franklin said.
Veterans Affairs counselor Jerry Shirey of Bishop State said this will be detrimental to the morale of the military as a whole.
"This will affect us and our active duty and reservists. It might not only deter people from getting their education but it might also deter them altogether by joining the military," said Shirey.
After serving in the Army in Vietnam, Shirey attended the University of Montevallo where he double majored in counseling & psychology and later earned his master's in rehab counseling from the University of Alabama…all on benefits from Veterans Affairs. Even though the funds for his education are not coming from the same place, he said he understands these students might be at a disadvantage when it comes to funding their education. He is forever grateful for his.
According to Ayers, financial aid offered to civilians is not off limits to military. They can still qualify for loans, grants, scholarships, and work study programs.
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