Marines assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit attend a U.S. history class aboard the dock landing ship Rushmore on Dec. 28. They were using tuition assistance funds to enroll in courses offered by Central Texas College and Park University. The Marine Corps reopened tuition assistance Monday. (Cpl. Timothy R. Childers / Marine Corps)
The Marine Corps tuition assistance program is now accepting new enrollments, officials with the Corps’ Marine and Family Programs Division confirmed Friday.
The program quietly came back Monday, following the March 26 announcement that Congress had ordered the services to restore funding for the program.
When Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced in a March 13 all-Navy message that the program would be stopped immediately due to budget cuts — the Army and Air Force quickly followed suit — the reaction was visceral. Disgruntled troops and family members began White House petitions and Facebook pages in protest, while legislators deplored the decision to end the program.
An amendment to the continuing resolution in Congress, which funded the government through the end of fiscal year 2013, restored funding for TA across the services, and President Obama signed the measure into law March 26.
The Army and Air Force brought their TA programs back online this week, but Marine Corps officials have been slow to announce the reopening of their own program.
According to Shawn Conlon, branch head of personal and professional development within the Marine and Family Programs Division, Marines must complete TA authorization for each class before enrolling, a system that was in place prior to the TA suspension.
“Cpl. ‘Jones’ gets a voucher that can be provided to the University of X that the Marine Corps will pay for History 101,” Conlon said via email. “He then enrolls in the class and the Marine Corps pays University of X for his class.”
According to Conlon, there were 18,981 Marines taking advantage of TA as of March 22, just before the program was temporarily halted.
The restored funding, some $19 million plus the $28 million already spent or obligated, will cover the program only to the end of this fiscal year. The future of TA beyond that remains unclear.