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Dyess representatives, airmen and spouses react to military tuition assistance suspension

By Cassandra Webb, cwebb@ktxs.com
Published On: Mar 18 2013 08:49:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 18 2013 08:50:21 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

The Air Force's tuition assistance program helps service members with the cost of their education.

It's been around since just after the second World War. 

Now, for the first time in the program's history, the Air Force is suspending the benefit.

The tuition assistance program, commonly known as TA, has been suspended as a result of the $85 billion in federal sequestration cuts.

Senior Airman Mikel Fair was using the TA program to finish his bachelor's degree.

The perk was a big reason he joined the Air Force in the first place.

Fair was disappointed upon receiving word of the suspension.

"I was a little bummed because that's what I was utilizing," Fair said. "It offers about six classes a year for me and my school so now I have to find other ways to pay for my school," he said.

Fair said he has now filled out an application that would determine for which Pell grant he can qualify.

He also said had it not been for the Air Force's TA program, he would still be attending school, but would have to take out loans, which would obviously cost him more money in the end.

The TA program provides up to $4,500 a year for students.

Airmen who were enrolled before the program was suspended will still receive the benefit until their individual money runs out.

New applicants are being denied altogether.

However, education representatives at Dyess Air Force Base say there are other options.

"We can offer assistance in either Pell grant or use of their Montgomery GI bill or post 9-11 bill to help them ease the burden," said Ferdinand Pateo, chief of education and training services at Dyess Air Force Base. 

But that's won't help everyone.

The GI bill benefits can be transferred to dependents.

But as military spouse Amanda Otto is finding out, military families with more than one student may find the GI bill won't cover everyone.

The Otto's depended on TA to fill the gap.

"A lot of people that have gotten the cut are like, 'Well, at least we still have the GI bill,' but we don't have that because it's one or the other," Otto said. "We can't both use it because I would almost completely use it up in nursing school," she said.

"I understand they need to make cuts," Otto added. "But I feel like there is so much other waste in the military where they could make things more efficient and trim things," she said.

"They could look for long term solutions rather than looking for a quick fix and cutting the TA," she said.

According to Patao, the TA program is still in the budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

Patao said he is hopeful the program will be reinstated. 

Airmen should know sometime in the late summer if that will happen.

To learn more about how the TA suspension is affecting Dyess service members, click here.