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Lost in budget cuts: Army Tuition Assistance program dating to 1940s

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U.S. Army soldiers stand together in Fort Hood, Texas. On Friday, the Army suspended its Tuition Assistance program for soldiers due to budget cuts.

Soldiers across the country received some bad news in their email inboxes: due in part to sequestration, the Tuition Assistance Program has been suspended -- cutting out $4,500 a year  in tuition assistance for military personnel.

The Secretary of the Army approved the suspension on Friday and notified soldiers via email.

The suspension will not affect soldiers who are currently enrolled in courses using the program, but soldiers will no longer be able to submit requests for future assistance.

"Reducing their access to education isn't really well thought out," said Patricia D'Orange-Martin, coordinator of Veterans Services at Pasadena City College. She said Tuition Assistance is a crucial component to helping veterans earn college level diplomas since the GI Bill often doesn't cover a full four year degree. 

"This is such a small drop in the bucket for their budget," she added.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the Tuition Assistance Program provided $375 million to soldiers. The funding covered 620,000 courses across the country and assisted with more than 4,000 bachelors degrees. 

The move comes as the army struggles to find more than $15 billion in cuts following automatic defense cuts that began when Congress failed to meet its deadline last week.

"You have to consider, OK what programs are going to be top priority," said Tom Alexander, Jr., chief of Public Affairs for Army Personnel.

Alexander added that soldiers would still recieve support from other Veterans Affairs education benefits like the Post 9/11 GI Bill. "Tuition assistance was a program that could be suspended, but we understood that soliders had other avenues."

This is the first time the military tuition assistance program has been suspended since it began in the late 1940s. At the time, the program was put in place to support personal development education for active duty personnel. In the 1950s, the program expanded to include military officers as well.

Do you have family members who use the Tuition Assistance program? How will this change their education plans? Let us know in the comments below. 

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