The Department of Defense announced in November 2001 that tuition assistance for active-duty members seeking off-duty education would rise and that reimbursement rates would be made uniform across all branches of service. The uniformity is important, said defense officials, because members of different services work side by side in a joint environment. Morale could suffer if each service offered different levels of education benefits.
In October 2002, higher tuition assistance rates finally arrived, but the uniformity that was sought fell victim to differences in budget priorities among the services.
The Coast Guard, an agency of the Department of Transportation, said it could not afford to adopt the new rates that Congress first authorized more than a year ago. Therefore, for fiscal year 2003, tuition assistance will remain unchanged, covering 75% of costs up to an annual cap per student of $3,500.
The Marine Corps, by contrast, boosted tuition assistance to the new level on I October, paying 100% of off-duty education costs, up to $250 per credit hour, and a maximum of $4,500 per student annually. The Army and Air Force adopted the same rate and ceilings.