Policy change increases tuition assistance

Sep 28, 2007

By Michelle Bard, Army News Service

      WASHINGTON, D.C.Active-component (AC) soldiers and AGR, Active Guard and Reserve, soldiers now have more money to pay for their education because of changes to the Department of Defense's tuition-assistance policy.

      Effective Oct. 1, the Army's Tuition Assistance program pays 100 percent up to the new cap of $250 per semester hour of credit and an annual ceiling of $4,500 for AC and AGR soldiers enrolled in a post-secondary school.

      Under the old policy for drilling reservists, the tuition-assistance grant was up to 75 percent of tuition, capped at $187.50 per semester hour and $3,500 a year.   Drilling reservists still will be covered under these guidelines with the exception that the tuition-assistance grant will be up to 100 percent of tuition, with the same cap of $187.50 per semester hour and $3,500 a year, according to Dale Spannbauer, an education specialist at the Fort McCoy Education/Learning Center. The tuition assistance will cover some fees such as lab fees and computer fees in tuition costs, but will not pay for books as part of tuition costs for reservists, Spannbauer said.

      "This policy offers greater opportunities for those who want to continue their education," said Janice Yoo, Tuition Assistance program manager at the Total Army Personnel Command, Alexandria, Va.

The increase was in response to changes made in law (10 USC 2007) two years ago. A revision to Army Regulation 621-5 currently   is being staffed, officials said.

      Yoo said the policy could not be implemented immediately when it was enacted.

      "We couldn't snap our fingers and change it," Yoo said.  "Additional funds had to be programmed to support the change."

      There is a misconception that the new tuition assistance always will cover 100 percent of tuition, Yoo said. However, the Army will pay 100 percent only if the institution's fees are $250 per semester hour or less for AC and AGR soldiers. If the fees exceed $250, the Army will not pay more to cover the difference, she said.  This 100 percent policy holds true for reservists; the Army will pay 100 percent up to $187.50 any cost after that will be covered by the soldier.

      "If you are really strapped for cash, federal grants are available. You still can apply for Pell grants," Yoo said.

      Enrolled soldiers also may draw funds from their Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB). Active-duty soldiers can receive up to $32,400 for 36 months or more of service effective Oct. 1.

      Soldiers enrolled in the MGIB, and who also have been on active duty for at least two years, can elect to use part of their MGIB entitlement to cover tuition costs that exceed the Tuition Assistance cap. This add-on benefit is called "Top-Up."

      The Tuition Assistance Program was introduced in 1947 to showcase the Army's commitment to educating its soldiers, officials said.  Each institution is different in its tuition per credit make up and coverage.   Active component, AGR and reservists should check with the supporting education center for more information.

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