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Press Release
January 14, 2004
Oregon National Guard Forced to Curtail Tuition Assistance for Citizen Soldiers
On the heels of Governor Ted Kulongoski report on his recent trip to Iraq, sponsored by the Bush Administration, the Oregon National Guard announced today that they have depleted the Tuition Assistance funds for the remainder of the school year due to reduced funding from the National Guard Bureau. Currently, 250 Oregon Air and Army Guardsmen are participating in a federally sponsored Tuition Assistance program that gives members in good standing and meeting educational requirements of the college or university, up to 75% funding of those costs. Also the program will pay student loans and offer financial assistance for master's and doctorate degrees. Oregon Guard officials said in a statement that this could not have happened at a worse time given many of the soldiers currently enrolled in the program are getting ready to deploy and have curtailed their education pursuits but expect to return with this benefit. What is really disconcerting is we have over 1200 soldiers currently deployed who will be returning home expecting to go back to school to find the cupboard bear.
The Legislature authorized the OMD 90% TAP during the last Biennium but through budget cut backs during 5 special sessions the department returned to the General Fund the majority of the funds. During the past record setting legislative session, members of the OMD's Legislative budget committee, told the dept to return to the E-Board if they ran out of funds and request additional dollars in order to meet the commitment given to Guardsmen earlier. Col. Mike Caldwell Deputy Director for State Affairs said "presently we have used only $20k of the $150k the Legislature authorized for TAP. We have been able to leverage those funds with the Federal TAP to benefit over 250 Oregon Guardsmen. Unfortunately, I don’t see the state filling this entire gap given our economic situation."
Brigadier General Raymond C. Byrne, Jr., Acting Adjutant General of the Oregon National Guard said, "we will examine all of our federal accounts in order to determine if we can possibly move dollars to cover the anticipated $450k short fall. At the same time we are requesting NGB to give us additional dollars to meet these commitments that were made to these soldiers when they enlisted. To do less would be irresponsible."
The Oregon National Guard has been offering up to 75% of federal T.A. to enlistments as an incentive to join. The Legislature passed a TAP bill in 1995 authorizing up to 90% TAP at state Institutions and Community Colleges. The Legislature never fully funded this incentive, but Guard officials coupled the state monies with the federal assistance to give each qualified enlistment a substantial scholarship. Guard officials also estimate that these incentives have been a major factor in recruiting young men and women into the Guard over the past 9 years. Gen. Byrne also stated that, " without these incentives, I am all but certain a good number of our soldiers and airmen currently serving would not have joined. It is essential that we figure out how we can make our commitments good or we can forget about ever offering anything like this for a long long time."
For more information contact:
Maj. Arnold V. Strong