JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — Many new Airmen cite education benefits as a top incentive for choosing to serve, yet hundreds of thousands of dollars in Air Force college money go unused every year.
Tuition assistance is one education benefit that Airmen can use to offset the cost of higher learning. The Air Force Reserve provides 100 percent tuition assistance, up to $4,500 per year and $250 per semester hour, for the vast majority of reservists.
Senior Master Sgt. Sal Valeo, the 514th Air Mobility Wing’s chief of education and training, said an Airman’s choice to forego tuition assistance benefits is almost like declining a personal check for $4,500.
One Airman who doesn’t plan to forego his college money is Senior Airman Daniel Condo, who as a financial management specialist with the 514th AMW, understands the value of tuition assistance.
“I was pursuing a master’s degree and the tuition was very expensive,” Condo said. “I knew the Reserve would be able to help me pay for school.”
During the fall semester, Condo used $2,250 in tuition assistance toward his master’s degree in criminal justice.
Condo said he is grateful for the benefit because it gives his family greater financial flexibility.
“By saving money on college, my wife and I have been able to plan a vacation to Disney World,” he said.
To qualify for tuition assistance, Airmen must be registered in a 2- or 4-year degree seeking program. Tuition assistance will only be applied to courses on an Airman’s degree plan.
Airmen who have completed a degree, may only apply tuition assistance to a higher-level degree. For instance, an Airman who has completed a bachelor’s degree will not be given assistance for an associate’s degree or a second bachelor’s degree. Additionally, tuition assistance will not be paid toward education beyond a master’s degree. Exceptions are made for courses that relate to preparation for defense language proficiency tests, pursuit of teaching certification and completion of a Community College of the Air Force associate’s degree.
While tuition assistance is widely considered a benefit for individual Airmen, the Air Force as an institution, also stands to gain from an Airman’s pursuit of higher learning.
According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s Vision for the United States Air Force, “Education and training are the foundation of our airpower advantage.”
Welsh’s vision charges Airmen with safeguarding and reinforcing that foundation.
The general wrote, “All Airmen, whether teacher or student, have a role in ensuring that we remain the most technically proficient, best-educated and best-trained air force in the world.”
Key facts about AFRC tuition assistance:
- 100 percent of tuition is covered up to $250 per semester hour or $167.67 per quarter hour with an annual cap of $4,500.
- Transition Assistance is not available for repeat or equivalent courses already paid for through Air Force Reserve Command TA.
- Airmen must be in good standing with their units and actively participating for pay and points.
- Airmen must complete a TA statement of understanding before becoming eligible.
- A degree plan is required by the education office before applying for a 4th class.
- TA benefits are reimbursements that are paid several months after successfully completing the course.
- TA is not authorized for courses leading to a lower or lateral degree than what that student has already attained. Exceptions are made for the pursuit of teaching certifications, some language studies and for courses leading toward a Community College of the Air Force degree.