West Michigan National Guard Reacts To Tuition Assistance Suspension

Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-18 20:01:06-04

WYOMING, Mich. — Sequestration cuts in Michigan hit the state’s military the hardest, with $69 million in cuts.

It’s also suspended some programs – including last week’s announcement of a freeze on federal tuition assistance for most branches of the military.

“All our recruiters out there are pretty much saying, ‘At this moment and time, this isn’t on the table,'” Lt. Col. Shawn Harris of the Michigan Army National Guard says.

Harris knows exactly what federal tuition assistance can do for people who choose to serve in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

“Actually paid for my college and made me the person I am today – a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army,” he says.

While soldiers still have access to other scholarships, federal grants, and the G.I. Bill, the up-to $4,500 a year that active soldiers could get through F.T.A. programs is a big chunk of the educational price tag.

“It offsets a lot of that cost for them,” Harris says, “so it’s a way that a soldier can say, ‘OK, my dream is to go to college,’ and it actually makes it come true.”

Harris has faith that the government won’t let those dreams go unfulfilled.

“I would tell you with all the confidence of being out here in the field,” he says, “that this issue that we’re dealing with – Federal Tuition Assistance – will be resolved…before the next semester (in September.)”

Harris says the true effect of the assistance suspension wouldn’t be seen unless the suspension lasted until the beginning of the fall semester.

As great as the educational assistance is, it’s still not the main focus of the soldiers.

“The individual that comes to us – the number one thing …that we ask them to do for us,” he says, “is to serve our country. Regardless of the caveats.”

“At the end of the day, that’s what all our soldiers that are currently in the Michigan Army National Guard understand: that I’m here to serve my country and the great state of Michigan.”