Defense Dept. Delays Action on Plan to Cut Military Tuition Benefit

October 28, 2011

The Defense Department has delayed plans to cut its tuition-assistance benefit, leaving members of the armed forces unclear on how long they will receive the maximum benefit of $4,500 a year.

In a news release issued on Friday, the Pentagon said the tuition-assistance policy would be considered in a "holistic review of the military compensation package." Any changes in the tuition benefit would be announced after that review. In a separate statement, the department said the benefit would be reviewed "as part of a larger discussion on overall Defense compensation reductions."

Maj. Monica Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said by e-mail that there was no timeline for completion of the review or estimate on how long the benefit would remain at its current level.

The department's decision to defer action came a week after the Marine Corps said it was cutting its benefit to $875 and placing new limits on eligibility—a move that it reversed this week.

The Defense Department had been weighing a benefit cut across the armed services to rein in the costs of the program, which has nearly tripled over the past decade and officials now consider unsustainable. Although the department never announced any cuts, the Marine Corps's original announcement implied that the military-wide maximums would be $175 per semester-hour for undergraduate courses and $225 per semester-hour for graduate credits, with an annual ceiling of $3,500.

The department's decision affects not just members of the military, but also the for-profit colleges who cater to them. American Public Education Inc., which operates the American Public University system, received 44 percent of its revenue from Defense Department benefits in the second quarter of this year.