Sequester forces U.S. military to temporarily suspend tuition assistance programs

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The U.S. Air Force has joined the Army, the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps and temporarily suspended its tuition assistance program because of the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.

The program was suspended late Monday afternoon and left some students uncertain about the future of their studies.

"It's a motivation to keep going. And, that was my motivation to keep going for my master's [degree] because I knew it was being taken care of," said Latonia McCook, a Palm Beach State College student and a reserve member of the National Guard.

McCook said the tuition assistance program paid for most of her studies -- as much as $4,500 of her tuition every year.

Some service members still qualified for help through the G.I. Bill, but Rhonda Anderson, an associate dean at Northwood University, cautioned that the cuts could eventually affect more students.

"The next few weeks will tell us if it is going to impact all of our military students," she said. "It could mean [some students] staying out this year until the government decides how they're going to handle these funds."

McCook, who planned to continue her education after graduation, was unclear what would happen next.

"I really want to do my master's and it's not something where I want to give up on it just because of a situation like this," she said. "Do you want to end up [with] $30,000 in loans in debt? Or, do you just want to say, 'Hey, let me just stick with my Bachelor's,' because you have no other options? You have no other way of paying for it."

The cuts to the tuition assistance programs came after the US Department of Defense was faced with $46 billion in automatic cuts this fiscal year.

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