Local Students Impacted by Cuts to Military Tuition Assistance - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Local Students Impacted by Cuts to Military Tuition Assistance

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Four branches of the military may no longer have to suspend tuition assistance programs for active duty members due to sequestration.

The senate approved a measure late Wednesday that would keep the government running through the end of September. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday. The approved Senate version includes a measure that would preserve the military tuition assistance program.

We checked with some of our local colleges and universities to see how many students would be impacted if the cuts remain.

"Ultimately it's a feeling that I've served my country and I thought I had earned this benefit and now it's no longer available" said Chuck Steenburgh, an Army veteran who served more than two years in Korea.

Steenburgh now works for American National University and knows firsthand how losing military tuition assistance hurts.

"It was the same situation. I counted on using this benefit. The military said I couldn't use it but I was kind of forced to use my GI benefits instead" said Steenburgh.

The Communications VP says veterans make up about 12 percent of their overall enrollment, but only a handful are active duty military members taking classes.

"We're trying to assess how we can use those to maybe backfill some of the lost tuition assistance funding that the students have" said Steenburgh.

About 30 Virginia Western Community College students are expected to be impacted by the cuts. The school says they're working to find other options.

"We want to do everything we can to help offset what they were expecting" said Chad Sartini, the Virginia Western coordinator of financial aid and veterans affairs. "As a community college we're at an advantage because our tuition is about half that of a regular four-year college."

Steenburgh says cutting benefits will hurt recruitment and the military.

"This program not only benefits the soldiers but benefits the military as well because you get a better educated solider out of the bargain" said Steenburgh.

Liberty University has more than 4,800 students impacted by the cuts. Virginia Tech has at least 180 students. Both schools say they are also working to find other options for students on a case-by-case basis.