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Sequestration ends Army tuition assistance program

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Sequestration ends Army tuition assistance program
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It's been one of the key benefits the Army offers those looking to sign up. But because of sequestration, the tuition assistance program has been cut. As our Brian Dwyer reports, for a school like Jefferson Community College so close to Fort Drum, it's a big deal.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- There's no question that schools from all over New York State benefit from having soldiers attending class.

The soldiers benefit too. Not only does it give them a better chance on the career path, but the Army, up until Friday, paid up to $4,500 of the tuition.

"It's been a big program for retention," JCC Director of Military Programs Donald Johnson said. "A lot of soldiers will enlist for education benefits. They'll get them while they're in the Army. The Army has made a commitment to enhance the intellectual development of soldiers because you know a smarter soldier is a better soldier."

But like many things we'll likely see in the near future, thanks to sequestration, that tuition assistance program has been cut.

Jefferson Community College's student population is one-third military or military-related. The value of tuition assistance is well over $100,000 a year. As spring’s late session classes are set to begin, soldiers who held off enrolling early because of uncertain military schedules have a choice to make because the assistance won't be there.

"We'll probably lose 10, 20, 30 enrollments for the late session of people who haven't yet registered and can't. For summer, it's a big question," Johnson said.

It's another sequester impact. One of what North Country Congressman Bill Owens says will be more, adding that no one will understand the impact for several more months.

"As this rolls out, I think you'll see more and more things, like the tuition assistance program, either be cut or eliminated," Rep. Owens said. "I think as people realize the impact of that, they'll grow to see sequestration is not a good idea."

"The problem with budget disagreements is when it affects the person at the bottom who doesn't have much control," Johnson added. "Some of the junior soldiers, this is their way of getting an education."

Johnson says his office will work harder now to help soldiers with other options, like family income based Pell Grants, TAP grants for active duty soldiers and even GI Bill benefits.

Because JCC is so military heavy, if the sequester goes on for some time, the college says it could consider cutting back on the number of courses it offers.

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