For the third time in one calendar year, the Marine Corps’ tuition assistance program faces modifications, raising questions as to whether the Marine Corps remains committed to continuing education programs.
In a recent message, the Marine Corps issued 18 additional tuition assistance program guidelines for eligibility. The Stars and Stripes reported on some of the most restraining guidelines including the requirement of at least two years of service prior to being eligible for the program. The guidelines read more like a list of restrictions. This latest message marks a trend for the Marine Corps in essentially scaling back the tuition assistance program.
March: The secretary of the Navy issued a message in response to sequestration restricting prospective participants from enrolling into the program. Noticeably absent was the restriction of Navy Sailors from the program calling into question whether the tuition assistance cuts were necessary due to sequestration.
September: A Marine Corps administrative message issued new guidelines for eligibility for tuition assistance making it more difficult to enroll in the program.
October: The Marine Corps Times reported that the government shutdown crippled the Marine Corps’ ability to process new tuition assistance requests. No new applications were processed. The new guidelines from September were also highlighted.
November: According to the Stars and Stripes, the new guidelines on tuition assistance were delayed due to the government shutdown as no new enrollees were being processed. The guidelines went into effect on October 21.
In the Marine Corps’ defense, they face incredible uncertainty with a divided Congress and shrinking budget. Regardless, the Marine Corps’ leadership should analyze the importance of education within its ranks. I would venture to guess that virtually every senior Marine or civilian official deciding on tuition assistance program cuts or restrictions possesses, at a minimum, a college degree. Yet those most affected by previous program stalls and the additional program restrictions are those without a post-secondary credential.
The Marine Corps is edging intolerantly close to violating their third mission: develop quality citizens.