BURNSVILLE, Minn. - The Army's Tuition Assistance program is being suspended for 200,000 soldiers nationwide who use the program to help pay for college classes.
The announcement has newly enlisted soldiers like Pvt. Cameron St. Pierre Harmer concerned.
"This was one of the main reasons why I signed up for the National Guard," said St. Pierre Harmer, a senior at Burnsville High School. "It's how I plan to pay for school."
Army officials say the suspension is necessary given budget challenges caused by sequestration. Soldiers currently enrolled in courses using the program can complete them, but they will not be allowed to enroll in new ones.
"If you are expected to be a full-time solider, deployed part of the time and take care of your family it is difficult to do without tuition assistance," says Sgt. Joe Rosen of Princeton, now based in Maryland. "I push my unit to get their education and this is frustrating."
Sgt. Rosen has already signed a petition to urge lawmakers to free up money for the program.
Currently, 1,600 Minnesota National Guard members use the Army's Tuition Assistance. Last year, the Army spent $373 million on the program, $4.5 million was sent to Minnesota service members.
"I hope something gets worked out soon," says Pvt. St. Pierre Harmer. "Right now, I'm trying to research how this may affect me."
The G.I. Bill program is not affected by this decision. State aid and other private and public funds available to soldiers can also be used.
Lt. Col. Kevin Olson with the Minnesota National Guard says, "We will make sure service members are receiving the assistance they need."
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)