By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 1998 – The cost of continuing your education just got cheaper.
A uniform tuition assistance policy affecting all the services went into effect Oct. 1, Pentagon officials said. All services now pay 75 percent of undergraduate and graduate level tuition and related costs up to ceilings of $187.50 per semester hour and $3,500 per year, said Otto Thomas, DoD director of continuing education.
Roughly 400,000 service members receive tuition assistance each year. Less than 10 percent received it to the degree that they would have hit the ceiling, Thomas said.
The annual ceiling would help cover about 18 semester hours of studies at expensive schools and considerably more at cheaper ones. Service members would have to spend nearly $1,200 out of pocket to hit the ceiling, and those who do can apply for waivers, although DoD officials are not encouraging that.
Thomas said the ceiling is a compromise -- some officials wanted more money. But tuition assistance is meant to support part-time student programs. Service members are full-time members of the military, and being full-time students, in addition, is difficult. Even with the compromise, service members attending a modestly priced school would have to be full-time students to hit the ceiling -- and they probably don't have that kind of free time, he said.
In the past, the services had individual tuition policies. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines could be in the same college class and yet be reimbursed differently. The services also had established different amounts they would pay for different college levels. One service, for example, might pay a certain amount for undergraduate work and a different amount for graduate work, Thomas said. Another service even broke that down, paying less for freshman and sophomore level courses than for junior/senior courses.
The October 1995 Quality of Life Task Force Report, also known as the Marsh Report, after the group chairman, former Army Secretary John O. Marsh, recommended the uniform approach.