Active duty students face federal aid cuts

September 1, 2011
by Madeleine O'Connor

Cuts to the Defense Department’s budget may mean less federal aid for active military students, if a bill supported by House Republicans passes through Congress.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., tacked a provision requesting a review of tuition assistance on to the House of Representatives version of the 2012 Defense Appropriation Bill, saying the financial aid program should face cuts as part of a larger effort to decrease national spending.

The bill would require the Committee on Armed Services to assess ways to "increase the efficiency of the tuition assistance program," according to GOP.gov.

If the program was reduced, more than 300,000 active military students reliant on the aid would be required to pay a higher portion of their tuition. The benefit currently provides $4,500 per year to active military students.

Many students who receive federal tuition assistance are also eligible for scholarship funds from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a separate aid program. Most GW military students use the benefits it provides, Waring said.

University President Steven Knapp and other senior administrators have pledged a strong support system for college veterans attending GW, often trumping what other universities offer as financial assistance for members of the military.

GW expanded its commitment to the Yellow Ribbon Program in 2010, providing a 35-percent increase in tuition benefits for graduate student veterans enrolled in the provision of the Post-9/11 GI bill. When lags in payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs forced student veterans from across the country to scramble to pay tuition in 2009, GW stepped in to provided emergency payment for its students.

There were 98 active duty students taking courses online or on the Foggy Bottom Campus last year, outreach coordinator for GW Student Veteran Services Mary Waring said.

President of GW Veterans Scott Disney said, despite GW’s expansive tuition aid, he believes many active duty students would feel the effects of tuition assistance cuts.

“If it gets cut even further, I think it could make a school like GW prohibitively expensive for active duty students to attend,” Disney said.

Department of Defense budget cuts would have only a minor impact on GI Bill benefits, according to numerous University officials, but Kent Springfield, director of government relations for the University, said GW will still monitor the bill’s progress.

“Over the next couple of years we will be watching how individual bills play out to see what it all means,” Springfield said.