COLUMBIA — In an effort to aid service members affected by recent federal cuts to military tuition assistance, Columbia College will allow service members to defer tuition payments for a four-week period this spring.
In response to sequestration, or $85 billion in federal cuts, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Coast Guard have suspended tuition assistance programs.
The spring academic period begins March 25, but military students at the college will not be required to make tuition payments until April 26.
Mike Lederle, assistant dean of Military and Federal Programs at Columbia College, said his department is encouraging students to obtain financial aid, funding under the G.I. Bill and both internal and external scholarships.
“We want personal loans to be the last thing our students look into,” Lederle said.
Columbia College also will allow students to withdraw from classes without academic or financial liability, though Lederle is optimistic students won't have to withdraw.
Approximately 8,500 students enrolled in courses through Columbia College, which includes 35 locations nationally, are currently eligible for military tuition assistance, Lederle said, and he expects this number to rise in the future.
The college will examine extending assistance to future academic sessions, Lederle said.
Lederle, a recent retiree of the Columbia Police Department and a 27-year active member of the Army National Guard, said he is pleased with the school’s efforts to help military students in need.
“As a college we have high academic standards,” Lederle said. “We will do anything in our power to help our students without compromising those academic standards.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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