Active-military troops who are taking courses through Washington colleges and universities learned recently that they may lose a tuition assistance benefit that helps pay for college. The cut is part of the federal budget sequester.
One of the Washington colleges likely to be most affected is Pierce College, which serves thousands of active-military students, both in person and online. In addition to its two campuses, the college also teaches classes at three locations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and teaches many more military students online, even those stationed in other states and countries.
John McMahon, executive director of the Pierce College Military Program, said it’s still unclear how many students will be affected by the cuts and what they will do if they lose the money. Military students also may be able to tap into other federal benefits to continue their schooling, he said.
McMahon said there are about about 2,200 full-time equivalent active duty military students who take classes at Pierce College. About 30 percent of Pierce’s Army students, and 4 percent of Air Force students, receive help for tuition bills through the tuition assistance program.
The University of Washington expects about 100 students studying at its three branches to lose funding, officials there said.
One such student is Michele Young, who is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree from UW-Bothell this fall. Young said the program pays about a quarter of the cost of her education at UW-Bothell, and without it she’ll probably have to take out loans to finish, something she has avoided, so far.
Young, who joined the Army ROTC to pay for college, said school officials suggested she apply for federal financial aid, but “I just know I’m not going to get them approved in time,” she said. “I will have to borrow from somebody.”