Kentucky National Guard students concerned for tuition assistance
The Kentucky National Guard state tuition program is running out of money for its soldiers. The $5 million program pays 100 percent of state-sponsored schools for Kentucky Guard members, but by 2016 the Kentucky National Guard says all that money will be spent.
One of those students spoke with Local 6. We are concealing his identity for security purposes and will refer to him as John. John says he’s concerned what this lack of funding could do to the guard and those educations.
As a student, John says, he signed up for the National Guard because he believes in serving his country. He says he cares about his country and appreciates all the opportunities the guard has give him, but he only recently found out school funding from the guard was wiped away for the spring.
John will be able to pay for school, but he says when soldiers in his unit struggle and face dropping out, that’s when he sees a problem.
"It seems unfair that when you sign up to do something and you’re in a contract, something that’s promised to us, and they take it away," John says.
Col. Michael Abell with the Kentucky National Guard says the problem is a good problem: All their guard members are home from war. He says when the soldiers came home, that’s when everyone applied for school.
Abell says more National Guard members are applying to go to school. The Kentucky National Guard says they reviewed more than 1,200 applications for the spring semester alone, which is more than all the applications they received last year.
Abell says they did not believe the applications would hit the funding so fast. He says they are working to revamp the benefits offered so more soldiers can go to school, but working with the state budget will take time.
"In a peacetime army, we’re going to have to be more frugal and more efficient," Abell says.
John says he does not want to cause trouble for the guard, but he hopes the tuition problem is short-lived.
"We don’t know if its going to run out in the future or anything like that," John says.
Abell says they are working to restructure the guard’s benefit plans for their members, but he says those plans have not been approved yet. Major Steve Martin with the Kentucky National Guard says guard members’ tuition plans are an additional benefit. Martin says many other states are seeing the same problem. If the Kentucky National Guard were to fund every member to go to school, it would cost $11 million. Martin says the Kentucky National Guard is working with the state budget to secure funds.
As for what those plans would look like, Abell says they are looking at only funding soldiers for five years to get a four year degree, not pay for multiple degrees, and making their airmen a priority because they don’t qualify for federal assistance.
Kentucky Army guardsmen and guardswomen can apply for federal grants. There are 8,000 members in the Kentucky Army National Guard.