Courtesy of MCT
Yannis Hadjiyannis, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and Ohio State student, said he was taken aback when he heard he would lose tuition assistance as a result of federal budget cuts.
“Initially I was pretty shocked,” said Hadjiyannis, a second-year in biology. “It took a lot out of me because it’s such a big contribution to my education.”
He is just one of 39 OSU students who would have been directly affected by cuts to the military as part of the sequestration, an automatic $1.2 trillion reduction in government spending over 10 years.
However, on Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill that prevented the Department of Defense military branches, including the U.S Navy, Army and Marine Corps, from cutting their tuition assistance program, an education stipend for active-duty military members. It would have been cut to zero from $4,500 per year, which would have directly impacted the 39 students who use the program.
The bill still must be signed by President Barack Obama to go into effect, but many are hopeful that he will support it given the bipartisan backing.
“I’m very pleased that the House and Senate signed this and I fully expect … that the president will sign it,” said Mike Carrell, OSU’s Office of Military and Veterans Services director. “I think it’s important for the military members to get their education and … a lot of them signed up to serve to get those education benefits.”
Hadjiyannis said the public’s response toward the tuition assistance cuts was moving.
“I’m thrilled to see (how) citizens and Congress responded to the situation, it’s great to see that people wrote to their representatives … to support such a beneficial program,” he said.
Cuts in tuition assistance would have only impacted active-duty service members for upcoming school terms. Spring Semester was paid in full, but those 39 students would not be able to use tuition assistance to take new courses and new students could not use the assistance to start school, Carrell said. Taking classes during the summer and fall semesters would have been off-limits.
“There will be no interruption which I think is important too, so anyone who (was) directly affected and want(s) to go through the summer can as well,” he said.
Since the Department of Defense will not cut tuition assistance, it has to make up the difference somewhere else. However, military pay and operations expenses will not be cut, Carrell said.
“The Department of Defense is going to have to find money to cut somewhere else, so I’m sure there will be another program that hurts,” Carrell said. “Given a little flexibility they can find areas where they can support this cut through the rest of this year.”
Some students agree the military has room to cut spending and run more efficiently. Even though he is not an active-duty service member and thus not affected by the cuts, Jeremy Powell, a former Navy electrician , said there is room to cut.
“The military is kind of wasteful,” said Powell, a second-year in engineering. “It’s easy for the military to cut back and do better as far as efficiency is concerned.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is not a component of the Department of Defense; it falls under the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Coast Guard withdrew its tuition assistance as a result of the sequestration, but announced that it would join the Department of Homeland Security in reinstating it in response to congressional action.
These cuts were a part of a roughly $45 billion portion of the sequester that will be taken from military spending this fiscal year. The military has a higher proportion of cuts than anything else being cut, Carrell said.