Central Texas College officials and board trustees reacted Thursday to news that Congress had taken action to help restore the tuition assistance program for members of the military.
The resolution calling on the Defense Department to restore the program for the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force was included in a larger spending bill passed by Congress on Thursday, and is currently awaiting a signature from President Barack Obama.
“If the bill is signed into law, the military will receive direction to restore tuition assistance,” said Thomas Klincar, the college’s chancellor. “That’s what the American people wanted to see happen.”
The tuition assistance program was created to help active-duty service members complete a high school diploma, certificate program or college degree, providing them with up to $4,500 per year for tuition.
Earlier this month, the program was suspended by the military in order to cope with deep, automatic budget cuts commonly referred to as sequestration.
Two senators — Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina — fought to preserve the program that allows active military to attend school part time while serving.
Last year, members of the active military took 870,000 courses and earned 50,500 degrees, diplomas and certificates, according to the senators.
Armywide, the program provided $373 million to more than 201,000 soldiers during fiscal year 2012.
At Fort Hood, more than 11,700 soldiers participated in the program at a cost of $4.8 million a year.
With more than 150 locations around the world, many at military installations, CTC serves thousands of military students, Klincar said.
About 10 days after the suspension of the program was announced, the college decided to continue enrolling military students who used the program.
The Central Texas College “tuition assistance grant” would have allowed roughly 12,000 of CTC’s military students to enroll in upcoming courses, and cost the college at least $5 million out of its own pocket.
“We did the right thing,” Klincar said. “We’re going to take care of our soldiers and continue to offer them college opportunities without pause.”
Mari Meyer, chair of the CTC board of trustees, praised the college’s staff.
“It’s situations like this that fill us with pride,” she said. “This college has been committed from day one to serving our military students.”
If the president signs the bill, the college could avoid going-out-of-pocket for military students affected by the tuition program’s suspension.
“I don’t think that we will miss a beat,” said Robert Liberty, the college’s chief financial officer, speaking during a financial update at the board’s regular monthly meeting Thursday afternoon. “(If the bill is signed) we will be right back on track.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.