Department of the Air Force officials announced a $3,750 military tuition assistance cap per fiscal year that will go into effect for college courses beginning Oct. 1, 2020.
Previously, military tuition assistance limits were $4,500 per fiscal year, but adjustments were required to ensure the program remains fully available and fiscally sustainable while meeting an increase in participation rates, the number of courses taken and course costs.
“While usage by our Airmen and Space Professionals is fantastic and we’re encouraged by the number working on their degrees, we need to make sure the benefit is accessible to as many of our service members as possible each year,” said Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “In 2013, under sequestration, tuition assistance was suspended for some time and our service members were negatively impacted. As we go forward and budgets get tight, we want to prevent that from happening again and we made hard decisions in order to keep this program viable and accessible to our force.”
Credit hour limits remain the same at $250 per semester hour and $166.66 per quarter hour.
Applications will be routed using normal procedures on the Air Force Virtual Education Center online platform. Airmen and Space Professionals may apply for tuition assistance up to 45 days prior to the start of their class date. The adjustments should help equitably stretch funding, but should fiscal year funds become exhausted at year end, service members who did not get their applications approved will have to wait until the new fiscal year’s funds are available to apply for tuition assistance.
“Tuition assistance aids in the development of a highly-educated and skilled military force,” Kelly said. “By making these adjustments, we ensure this key benefit continues for all Airmen and Space Professionals.”
These adjustments apply to both undergraduate-level and graduate-level classes. Recognizing there may be potential reasons for exceeding the annual cap waivers to the policy are available for unique circumstances. For example, members whose degree program requires a lab class exceeding the $3,750 limit by one semester hour or two quarter hours, or those working on a unique degree deadline may apply for a waiver.
Consult Air Force Instruction 36-2670 Total Force Development (https://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a1/publication/afi36-2670/afi36-2670.pdf) and Air Force guidance memorandum 2020-02 for details.
“Tuition assistance is a key and central in-service education benefit, but it’s only one of several avenues members can use to get their degrees and minimize out-of-pocket expenses,” Kelly said. Air Force officials noted comparing school costs, researching other resources such as Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support’s, or DANTES, subject standardized tests, or DSST, college-level examination programs, or CLEP, pursuing Community College of the Air Force degrees and other funding sources such as scholarships and grants as parts of the overall education benefit that can help minimize expenses.
Contact your local education and training office and your college counselor to explore all additional funding opportunities.