The new TA rules apply to officers and enlisted soldiers of the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve who are pursuing college degrees with TA support. (Defense Department)
The Tuition Assistance program will continue to be funded in 2014, but on Jan. 1 the Army will place new restrictions on the popular program, including a cap on the number of semester hours that can be paid for annually with TA money.
The new rules apply to officers and enlisted soldiers of the Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve who are pursuing college degrees with TA support.
Officials estimate that nearly 50,000 soldiers could be adversely affected by the changes recently approved by Army Secretary John McHugh, and thousands delayed in getting the benefit, and some may lose it.
The key changes are:
* Soldiers will be limited to 16 semester hours of TA-funded studies during a fiscal year. Based on existing participation rates, this policy will affect about 20,000 Regular Army soldiers, 6,200 National Guard members and 12,000 Army Reserve soldiers.
* Soldiers will not be allowed to use TA until one year after they complete initial entry training, whether that be the Basic Officer Leadership Course, Officer Candidate School or Advanced Individual Training. Based on current usage, this will impact about 4,000 Regular Army soldiers, 3,000 National Guardsmen and 1,200 Army Reservists.
* Soldiers will not be allowed to use TA for post-baccalaureate degrees until they have completed at least 10 years of service, unless they entered the Army with a bachelorís degree. Soldiers in the latter category will be allowed to begin graduate studies one year after the completion of initial entry training. Based on current usage, this change could affect 1,300 Regular Army soldiers, 220 National Guardsmen and 367 Army Reserve members.
As authorized in federal law and Pentagon regulations, the TA program is designed to provide financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education in support of professional and self-development goals.
For more on the program, see Monday's print edition of Army Times.