Military Back on Track to Reinstating Tuition Assistance Program
Amanda Harrison had one word for the House of Representatives' vote today on reinstating the tuition assistance programs for active duty members of the military: "Thrilled."
John, 26, is a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Amanda, 25, had been looking for work since October, when the couple moved from North Carolina to where he is stationed in California. Amanda had created a petition on Change.org asking leaders to reverse the suspensions.
Today the House voted to approve the 2013 Continuing Resolution, a stop-gap measure that funds federal agencies through Sept. 30. The resolution includes an amendment instructing secretaries of the branches of the military to reinstate the program until the end of fiscal year 2013. Today's legislation does not cover cuts specifically prescribed in the automatic, across-the-board sequester legislation.
Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, said his office values the tuition assistance program, but the fiscal climate is ripe for reevaluating programs.
"As always, whenever the president signs legislation proposed by Congress into law, we will comply," Hull-Ryde wrote in an email to ABC News Thursday. "If enacted, this legislation would require the services to make difficult and very thoughtful decisions on how to fund tuition assistance throughout the remainder of FY13 without impacting readiness."
The Harrisons are unsure about how much funding they'll receive going forward. But even a fraction of what they received before to help John pursue his bachelor's degree in intelligence analysis would be more than amenable to the couple.
"The question is, what do we do next and what can we expect?" Harrison told ABC News Thursday. "Right now they're paying nothing … so yes, 75 percent sounds really great."
"The cost of living in California is a lot higher than it was in North Carolina, so we've had to adjust a lot," Amanda said. She recently found out she will be starting a job soon, but she is also a full-time student, earning her own bachelor's degree.
One of the benefits John saw in the military was the opportunity to finance the rest of his education.
"There was no money for him to go to college as far as his parents were concerned, and so he wasn't really sure who was going to pay for it," Amanda said.
John initially feared he would have to put his studies aside when he heard the Marines were suspending their program, but Amanda was determined that he would see it through now. If he deployed or if the couple decided to have children, she expected he would be too busy to take classes.
"My opinion is that we have to try and find some way to make it work," she said. "If you have time you need to go to school, and you can't just keep waiting around."
A degree will make John eligible for a higher pay grade if he stays in the service and more attractive to private employers once he leaves, Amanda said.
Amanda's petition received over 42,000 signatures in less than three weeks. She said the response had been overwhelmingly supportive, with military mothers, spouses and even veterans writing to tell her how the tuition assistance program made a difference in their lives.
"It's so valuable," Amanda said of the program, "and my family and a lot of other families, we sacrifice a lot as far as other income we could have and our own family as far as where can we live, what can we do, when can we do it, time with our family…"
"[Tuition assistance] is a huge benefit…It's something that we all really appreciate."