Legion, others want to see increase in DoD tuition assistance

Legion, others want to see increase in DoD tuition assistance

The Department of Defense’s Tuition Assistance (TA) program is designed to provide financial assistance to servicemembers as they pursue voluntary education programs for personal and professional development.

But the financial aid is capped at $4,500 a year — the same as it was in 2002.

Proponents of the program, including The American Legion, say that’s not enough.

American Legion Veterans Employment and Education Director Joseph Sharpe was one of a number of panelists who discussed the TA program in a Capitol Hill policy briefing Feb. 6, hosted by the Legion and the Presidents Forum, an organization of college and university presidents and chancellors and other education stakeholders.

“We want to see an increase in the amount of money TA covers. $4,500 a year is not enough to help individuals really obtain a degree,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe; National University President and CEO Dr. Mark Milliron; University of Maryland Global Campus President Dr. Gregory Fowler; American Council on Education Assistant Vice President of Government Relations Anne Meehan; and “Inside Higher Ed” federal policy reporter Katherine Knott discussed the TA program’s effectiveness in retention and quality of life benefits for servicemembers.

However, “The Legion’s point of view, along with the institutions, is that it has not kept pace with the current rising tuition for many universities. And because of that, many universities have opted out of the program because it’s not cost-effective for them,” Sharpe said.

There are also concerns about accountability for institutions which receive TA funds. “We’d like to see more program outcomes, more metrics for both schools and servicemembers. We also want to know if the program is actually helping in the ways of recruitment and retention and readiness and a return on investment,” Sharpe said.

The American Legion’s support for the TA program is reflected in Resolution 2016-318, Ensuring the Quality of Servicemember and Veteran Student's Education at Institutions of Higher Education, which notes, in part, that the Legion seeks and supports “any legislative or administrative proposal that improves, but not limited to, the GI Bill, Department of Defense Tuition Assistance (TA), Higher Education Title IV funding (i.e., Pell Grants, student loans, etc.) and education benefits so servicemembers, veterans, and their families can maximize its usage.”

“We’d like to see the program advance to what is needed now,” Sharpe said.

But that will take legislative measures.