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Tuition assistance provides perk for service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Noah J. Tancer
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Untitled Document

Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s education and training office gave out $416,585.45 in Tuition Assistance during 2018’s fiscal year and $461,236.05 in 2017.

YARS had Air Force Reserve Command’s 11th highest percentage of Community College of the Air Force graduations in 2017 with 42 graduates.

“Twice we’ve had 40 graduates,” said Tech. Sgt. Ben Atkins, a force development manager assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing’s education and training office. “It’s unheard of for a reserve base; you just don’t have those kinds of numbers. I’ve been looking back at the records since we’ve been keeping them, and I’ve never seen that big a graduating class, at this base anyway.”

From April 2012 to October 2018 YARS has had 375 CCAF graduates.

The Air Force is the only branch with a community college that Airmen are already enrolled into by their Air Force Specialty Code.

A CCAF degree is an associate’s degree with many of the credits earned by graduating Basic Military Training, technical school and other leadership schools in the Air Force. After that, the member must complete 36 general education requirements.

“I get a lot of people in here that just want to start using their benefits or they just want to start going to school. They’re not even sure what to do yet, so I’ll say ‘hey, why don’t you start knocking out your CCAF requirements,’” said Atkins. “They start knocking out their CCAF requirements and don’t realize how easy it is until they’re in it. Next thing you know, their CCAF is out of the way, they’re going for a bachelor’s, a couple years later they’re done with their bachelor’s and looking at grad school. It’s that big first step getting back into school, then they just start rolling with it, and it takes off from there.”

YARS’s Education and Training office assisted 1,465 members with 2,626 enrollments, paying out a total of $2,145,077.45 in TA from October 2011 to September 2018. A member enrolled in TA is granted 124 lifetime undergraduate credit hours and 42 lifetime graduate credit hours with an allowance of $4,500 per fiscal year.

TA is paid directly to the school and doesn’t cover lab fees, technology fees or books; however, scholarships and grants can be used in conjunction with TA to cover those expenses. Government loans cannot be used with TA.

“What I’d recommend is if you know you’re going to use your education benefits for school, still do the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, because it’s going to be based off what you make, and you might qualify for some scholarship money,” said Atkins. “The only way schools can see that you’re qualified is by filling out the FASFA.”

TA does not pay for a level of degree already earned, and it caps at a master’s degree.

Military requirements for Tuition assistance are a passing physical fitness score, permission from a unit supervisor and active drill participation with no unexcused absences. Enlisted members must have two weeks of retainability after using TA as opposed to officers requiring four years retainability.

Educationally, the military member must pass all undergraduate classes with at least a C and graduate classes with a B or better.

“As long as you do your job and have passing grades, you don’t have to worry about any reimbursement to the government,” said Atkins.

To sign up for Tuition Assistance, the military member must be enrolled in a degree program and provide a degree audit with all courses required by the degree listed to their base Education and Training office. The class lists for degree programs are commonly available on college websites. TA must be set up no later than seven days and no earlier than 45 days prior to the start of school.

YARS’s education and training office also assists Airmen with switching their Montgomery GI Bill to the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays for 36 months of a military member’s schooling and operates on a percental system.

Military members are eligible for 40 percent of their Post 9/11 GI bill after serving 90 days on orders, not counting Basic Military Training or their first technical school. Participation in monthly Unit Training Assemblies and Annual Tour does not count toward the GI Bill.

At 180 days, the member’s percentage increases to 50 percent. Afterward, the percentage rises by 10 percent each 180 days.

The total amount of days it takes to earn 100 percent is 1,095 days, approximately three years of active duty service.

“If you’re in one of the career fields that deploys quite a bit, you go on two or three different deployments six months a pop, you’re looking at 60 to 70 percent when you get home,” said Atkins. “Then, you’re looking at man days, and next thing you know you’re at a real high percentage. It adds up quick.”

The Post 9/11 GI Bill pays directly to the school, comes with a book stipend of $1,000 a year based on member’s percentage and a Basic Allowance for Housing calculated with the school’s zip code.

To receive the full amount of their percentage and book stipend, a member is required to maintain 12 semester hours to be considered full-time.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill can be used in conjunction with government loans, scholarships and grants but can only be used with TA through the VA Top Up Program.

A military member’s GI Bill can be disqualified if the member has too many unexcused absences.

Only the Post 9/11 GI bill can be transferred. After July 2019 a member must transfer within 16 years of service with four years retainability at the time of the transfer.

For officers and enlisted members who earned their degree prior to joining the Air Force, the Education and Training office can provide information on tuition reimbursement programs.

Tuition Assistance is just one of the many perks to serving as a Reserve Citizen Airman, but one from which many 910th members are benefiting.