Active military students see their tuition dollars vanish with shutdown

Oct 15, 2013

Credit File Photo / KBIA

Because of the federal government shutdown, some active duty military students cannot get the tuition assistance they rely on to pay for college. Several have already dropped their classes. 

Tuition assistance is not the same as the GI Bill tuition, which is usually for veterans who are out of the military. As of now, GI Bill benefits are still covered.

“Tuition assistance” is a benefit awarded to active duty service men and women.

“Right now, Tuition Assistance is completely down," said Kricket Webster, director of Drury University’s St. Robert and Ft. Leonard Wood campuses. "And if it doesn’t come up before the classes begin, Tuition Assistance is not retroactive.” 

About 100 active military students on those campuses are directly affected, Webster said.  Many have served time in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’re shaking their heads at this situation.   

Drury is deferring payment for its active military students who had hoped to start up in Drury’s B-Block classes, which start next week. 

“Tuition assistance is, in their minds, is kind of an entitlement, you know, something they receive that they’re entitled to," Webster said.  "And so some of them are saying, ‘Well, that’s great, and I appreciate what you’re trying to do.'  So some of them are dropping, because they’re afraid they’re going to have to pick up the tab.” 

Webster says about a dozen active military students have dropped classes because they couldn’t find alternate funding for their upcoming classes.

“A lot of them, you know, are nervous," Webster said. "So we’re trying to make sure they’ve exhausted all other avenues of support that they have. Because some of them are just unaware that there are other options.” 

The problem is, she said, an officer or specialist without a family makes too much to qualify for a Pell Grant, so they’re left with a tuition bill the government promised them it would pay.

For those who can’t find other financial help, Drury will offer an extended payment plan.

They’ll at least be able to delay their payments, with the first payment due in December. That’s if these active duty soldiers and airmen can scrape together the money.