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Shutdown stalls Marines' popular tuition assistance program

Oct. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
The government shutdown that began Oc.t 1 has stalled the Marine Corps' tuition assistance program. Pictured: Sgt. Clifton Shackelford visits the Life Long Learning Center to gather information on the Tuition Assistance Freeze on March 4.
The government shutdown that began Oc.t 1 has stalled the Marine Corps' tuition assistance program. Pictured: Sgt. Clifton Shackelford visits the Life Long Learning Center to gather information on the Tuition Assistance Freeze on March 4. (Cpl. Paris Capers / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps’ tuition assistance program has stalled as a result of the federal government shutdown that began Tuesday.

The program’s status may vary from base to base, but officials across the Corps have said that no new TA applications will be processed until the shutdown is resolved. That creates potential difficulties for some Marines, especially those who attend schools with classes scheduled to start in mid-October.

“The Quantico Voluntary Education Center is closed for business during the government shutdown,” said 1st Lt. Jean Scott Dodd, a base spokesman. “As a result, tuition assistance applications will not be processed until funding is restored for the federal government.”

Marines can still apply for TA online, but action will not be taken until the government is back up and running.

Other testing and counseling services at the Voluntary Education Center also are suspended, although private college representatives on post are still available during normal working hours, Dodd said. Those schools will continue to hold day and evening classes as scheduled.

Beyond the shutdown, the Marine Corps’ TA program faces and uncertain future. As the service faces stark budget cuts, Marine officials have said combat equipment and operations will take priority.

The program was canceled in March, but resurrected a few weeks later after an outcry among service members prompted Congress to order the program’s preservation.

Also, eligibility for the program recently became tougher. The changes, outlined in Marine administrative message 456/13, stipulate:

■ Marines must now have at least 24 months time-in-service.

■ First-time students will only be approved for one course.

■ Funds approved for classes that are later failed will count towards the $4,500 annual maximum.

■ Financial assistance will be approved for only one course following a semester during which a Marine's grade-point average falls below 2.5, they receive a D or voluntarily withdraw from a course.

It remains unclear, even once the program is back up and running, how much money will be allocated in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1.

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