AFAS steps up with education programs

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devante Williams)

Education can be a key to succeeding in life, especially for military members looking to make the Air Force a career. The costs associated with getting an education are on the rise, but the Air Force Aid Society can help take some of stress out of the process for dependents.

For more than 70 years, the AFAS has helped many dependents of eligible Airmen to meet their post-secondary education expenses. Dating back to 1945, AFAS has provided financial assistance for education programs through the Air Force Aid Society Education Fund. The AFAS Education Fund has provided over $31 million in direct education loan assistance to 19,000 Air Force families.

AFAS is now accepting applications for education grants and scholarships. The single online application opens the door to three education programs.

One of the most common grants is the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant. It is the centerpiece and gateway to all the AFAS education programs. It offers need-based grants, starting at $2,000, to dependent children of active-duty, retired and deceased Air Force members. Active-duty members, spouses of active-duty members and surviving spouses of active-duty or retired members are also eligible. All applicants must be enrolled as full-time students in an undergraduate program at an accredited college or university during the 2015-2016 academic year. They must also maintain a minimum 2.0 grade-point average.

The second education program available for Airman is the Merit Scholarship. Airmen with top GPAs, verified through the Arnold education grant application, will be contacted directly by AFAS to compete for $5,000 scholarships. Ten scholarships are awarded annually.

If an Airman doesn’t meet the financial need criteria to receive the Arnold grant, completing the Supplemental Loan Program application will determine eligibility to secure an interest-free loan. Sponsoring members may request up to $1,000 per eligible student to help reimburse out-of-pocket education expenses.

A top student could receive all the benefits — a $2,000 grant, plus a $5,000 scholarship and a $1,000 no-interest loan equaling $8,000 in support of a student’s education.

The program has an average selection rate of more than 60 percent of those eligible and 100 percent of those eligible who have a validated financial need.

Cory Carmichael, 56th Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist, encourages Airmen to sign up for the program.

“When it comes to spouses and children, AFAS education programs definitely help people get on the right track,” he said. “There’s a student loan crisis going on right now. Billions of dollars of student loans are hurting Airmen trying to pursue their education. With the AFAS, it’s an opportunity for Airmen to meet their goals without feeling stressed out over student loans.”