The Air Force has had to make difficult choices to preserve readiness, and as a result, Air Force leadership suspended tuition assistance. However, Airmen have many options to help pay for education.
Air Force base education centers, staffed with professional, well-trained counselors and advisors, are ready to assist Airmen.
“We have the latest information on many financial aid options and can help Airmen with goal setting, testing and other aspects of the voluntary education program,” said Sandra Cooper, 56th Force Support Squadron education center counselor. “We recommend you consult the education center before using other educational programs to ensure you are making the best choices.”
The TA suspension went into effect March 11, but Airmen currently enrolled in courses approved for military tuition assistance are not affected and are allowed to complete current course enrollments.
Airmen who did not obtain course approval before the cutoff can use several federal programs such as applying for Pell Grants at http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/pell, or using the free application for federal student aid, at www.fafsa.gov, for low interest student loans.
In addition to grants and student loans, there are also free alternatives for completing Community College of the Air Force degrees.
“All the general education requirements for CCAF can be completed with free College Level Examination Program and DANTES tests,” Cooper said. “Study guides are available through the Air Force Virtual Education website and the base library, and practice tests can be taken online at the Defense Department Morale Welfare and Recreation Library website.”
CLEP and DANTES tests are administered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Rio Salado National Testing Center. Walk-ins will be taken on a space available basis, but to reserve a seat, call (623) 856-3239.
Another option for Airmen, who have served a minimum of three years in the Air Force, is activating their GI Bill.
“You can use your Chapter 33 or 9/11 GI Bill, but it is best to discuss this with an education center counselor and the Veterans Affairs certifying official at the school of your choice” Cooper said. “
Many active-duty members are also hesitant to activate their GI Bill because they had hoped to transfer it to their spouse or children. Tech. Sgt. Abel Telles, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels service center NCO-in-charge, had planned to transfer his GI bill to his children, but understands that flexibility is key.
“It is unfortunate about the recent TA cut, but I understand that it is necessary,” he said. “The mission comes first, and without it there is no use for us. I hope it comes back even if it is at 75 percent, but if it doesn’t I will still get my degree. One of the things I’ve learned is to be flexible if you plan on making the Air Force a career.”
The Air Force understands the impacts of this decision and is currently conducting an analysis to determine what changes need to be made to keep tuition assistance available at pre-March 11 levels.
The Luke Air Force Base education center will be hosting a class called Funding Your Education at 9 a.m. on April 9 and May 7, and 2 p.m. on April 25. For more information or to reserve a seat, call (623) 856-7723.