NORMAN — Help with college funding is a benefit earned by members of the U.S. armed forces. It was inevitable that the popular program would be cut as part of the federal spending cuts that took effect March 1. (The first rule of government budget cutting seems to be the elimination of popular programs that have constituencies.)
New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel should make it one of his first priorities to find a way to continue the tuition assistance program for the thousands of active-duty service members who are taking college classes.
The ban won’t impact students currently enrolled but will hit college campuses for the summer and fall semesters. Typically, tuition assistance pays service members an extra $250 per semester hour or up to $4,500 per year.
The Air Force announced this week that it has suspended the payments. The U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard suspended their programs earlier this month, and the U.S. Navy is weighing its options.
Hundreds of service members take courses through the University of Oklahoma at its operations throughout the world. The ban will hurt service member morale as well as damage efforts to recruit those who have college hours as part of their career goals.