National / International News
As of September, active service members who tap the military's tuition assistance program could be financially on the hook if they get bad grades.
Active members of the military can get up to $4,500 a year in tuition assistance. Under the current rules, they just have to pass classes they take off-duty to get tuition covered up to 100 percent, depending on the branch of the military they’re in.
But starting in early September, troops will have to earn a C or better in undergraduate classes, and a B or better in graduate work. And they can’t settle for grades of “incomplete.” Otherwise, they'll have to pay back the course tuition back.
“Tuition dollars and military student time is both limited and valuable,” says Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen. “So, we want to make sure they maintain focus and have an understanding of the expectations that are required of them.”
Christensen says the Pentagon could waive the requirements in certain cases and cut soldiers slack for events like deployments.
Emma Scherer of Student Veterans of America says the threat of paying back tuition for anything less than an average grade could scare people off.
“We don't want to put roadblocks in the way of service members or veterans getting to education, and this clearly does that,” she says.
Student financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, says having to back-pay tuition could also disrupt service members’ long-term education plans.
“They’d either owe the military or owe the college, and that could have consequences for their ability to complete college,” he says.
The changes come as the Pentagon faces long-term budget cuts.
Corporate earnings reports for the spring quarter are mostly in by the first week in August. Overall, they paint a pretty rosy picture for America, Inc., as Bloomberg predicts profits at S&P 500 companies rose nearly 9.5 percent; sales rose more than 4 percent. So far, 75 percent of companies that have reported earned more than equity analysts predicted.
“The results have been really solid,” said chief economic strategist John Canally at LPL Financial in Boston. He said the results bode well for the second half of 2014, especially since GDP growth has picked up since the winter reversal.
Canally said companies are mostly plowing their profits back into the company; not adding to their payrolls, or investing in new plant and equipment.
“It’s mergers and acquisitions, increasing dividends, share buybacks,” Canally said. “Companies are doing what companies normally do: trying to boost share price for their shareholders. They’re just not doing a lot of hiring right now.”
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, said U.S. companies have increasing worries overseas — where a lot of their profits are earned — due to geopolitical and economic crises in Russia-Ukraine, Iraq-Syria, Israel-Palestine, Argentina, and Europe.
“Some of those geopolitical events have made people rethink how optimistic they are about the world economy over the next 12 months,” said Ashworth — Which, he said, explains some of the stock market's recent slump.