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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) It’s one more example of spreading fallout from the partial federal government shutdown: Some two dozen active-duty U.S. military personnel beginning classes next week at Northeastern University were going to be forced to withdraw from NU’s College of Professional Studies because their Pentagon tuition aid has been shut down.
But Monday, Northeastern president Joseph Aoun pledged: We’ll let you come in for class and worry about getting reimbursement later when the government reopens.
"Our active duty military, Reserve, and National Guard mebers who put their lives on the line to protect us deserve far better from their country than to be prevented from accessing the higher education benefits they were promised," Aoun wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Surely DoD has existing capacity during the government shutdown to review, process, and approve on a contingent basis pending TA applications that meet current program guidelines. This seems all the more likely in light of recent action by Congress to pay civilian employees retroactively - a measure President Obama has pledged to sign into law."
Aoun added: "We believe higher education has an obligation to contribute to the security of our nation, and to support the women and men of the armed forces who serve and protect us."
One of many NU students we interviewed who was proud of Aoun’s response was Mae Steinberg, who said, "I think it's a good idea for somebody to step up. I hope that all the people who are suffering from the shutdown have similar looking out for them."
The reason this has become an issue at Northeastern and few if any other universities is a quirk of its academic schedule. While active-duty military members burnishing their skills with study at college and in master’s programs had started in class weeks ago and gotten their tuition aid before the shutdown, Northeastern has a year-round cooperative education schedule that alternates classroom study with "co-op" jobs and is a rare example of a school where students would be starting new courses next week at the College of Professional Studies.
Emily Vecchi, an NU student from Millis, Mass., said the shutdown's causing many other problems for NU students.
"I have a lot of friends who are on co-op at Northeastern and they work at government jobs. They're showing up to their government jobs, and they have nothing to do, and they're just sitting there," she says.
"It’s pretty dumb," Vecchi added. "It’s affecting basically our entire country, and I think that they" – President Obama and Congress – "need to figure it out because they're literally hurting the entire country."
With videographer David Jacobs