Tuition Assistance Down, Post-9/11 GI Bill Up

According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, the number of service members using the tuition assistance benefit for active-duty soldiers has dropped over the past fiscal year, while the number of veterans and their families that have been using the Post-9/11 GI Bill has risen.

According to the schools that received the most TA requests in 2013, the drop was primarily caused by more complex rules and restrictions on the use of tuition assistance. For example, the newest Army tuition assistance rules put in place halfway through the 2014 fiscal year requires soldiers who use TA to have more than a year of service, graduate-level courses are available to only soldiers with 10+ years of service, TA benefits are tied to height/weight and PT standards, and there is an overall cap on the number of semester hours that a soldier can use TA money for. The Army was the branch that saw the biggest drop in the use of tuition assistance, with a drop of 36,000 soldiers - or 22% - from FY 2013 to FY 2014. The Air Force TA use dropped 6% (7,000 airmen), the Marines 17% (6,500 Marines), the Navy 11% (5,000), and the Coast Guard lost a whopping 55% (4,500 Guardsmen).

Unlike the TA program, the use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill by veterans increased almost 5% over FY 2013, with the lion's share of the soldiers going to the University of Phoenix, a for-profit college. About 49,000 students enrolled at the university using the Post-9/11 benefit, more than double the number two college, the California Community College System, a public 2-year school. The University of Phoenix made about $344 million from the GI Bill, almost as much as the second through fifth schools combined. However, only two these four colleges are also for-profit. In addition to the California Community College System, the number 3 school was the University System of Maryland. Among the top 50 schools receiving Post-9/11 GI benefits, public schools enrolled a slightly greater number of students, but for-profit schools took in more than double the amount of money. This disparity between enrollment and tuition cost is one reason that some for-profit schools are the target of increased oversight.

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