Using education benefits helps set up a life of success

Master Sgt. Karin Wickwire-Krause

What one benefit is available to military and Department of Defense civilian personnel, renews itself each year, and by using that benefit a person can set themselves up for success not only in their current duties, but for the future as well?
Anyone who has pursued, or thought of pursuing, a college degree should know the answer immediately – the Air Force Tuition Assistance (TA) program.
“The TA program is an important quality of life program that provides 100 percent tuition and fees for college courses taken by active duty personnel during off-duty hours,” said Hildegard Buan, Base Training and Education Services officer For military personnel, TA pays up to $250 per semester hour, or $166.66 per quarter hour, and is worth up to $4,500 each fiscal year.
DoD civilians are also authorized TA, however, their program has different limits. Civilians are entitled to a TA rate of 75 percent of tuition and lab fees up to $187.50 per semester hour, or $124.50 per quarter hour, with a fiscal year cap of $3,500. There is one caveat, however – courses paid by TA must be related to their current job according to Ms. Buan.
As with any program, TA has guidelines with requirements and exceptions for both military and civilian students.
For military personnel, TA is an entitlement for all eligible personnel, regardless of grade and time in service. However, it is not normally authorized for courses leading to a lateral or lower level degree than a person already possesses, said Ms. Buan.
Some exceptions to the TA policy include:
— Earning Community College of the Air Force degree regardless of current education level;
— Earning an associate’s degree from a civilian college even if you have a CCAF associate’s degree but do not already possess a civilian associate’s or higher degree;
— Courses leading to certification or diploma;
— The last 12 semester/18 quarter hours of undergraduate prerequisite courses needed for admission to graduate school; and
— Officers with 15 years or less active commissioned service earning a graduate degree in a foreign language or for courses leading to foreign language proficiency.
While Airmen are no longer required to obtain their supervisor’s signature on TA forms, they are expected to discuss their schedule with their supervisor to ensure their support.
For civilian personnel, there are additional conditions that must be met to be authorized TA, according to Ms. Buan.
Some of those civilian conditions include:
— TA for degree-related courses is authorized only if the course directly meets job-related criteria;
— A supervisor’s letter must be submitted confirming the course directly relates to the applicant’s job and will improve individual performance and the organization’s mission;
— Civilian students may be required to provide justification for TA;
— Applicants may not supplement their TA with other government funds or veteran’s benefits;
With some possible exceptions, the directly job related criteria rules out TA for most humanities, natural science and social science courses. Courses in written and oral communication, business ethics and values, math, and business management are appropriate.
Military students may apply for TA online by going to the Air Force Virtual Education Center via the Air Force Portal at https://my.af.mil/, said Ms. Buan. Students can access the information at any time, whether at home or deployed. And, with the online signature, all paperwork can be routed through channels faster and more efficiently.
After students complete the TA form and register for class, they may still drop or change courses without penalty as long as they notify the base education center and the school, said Ms. Buan.
Students who receive a grade of incomplete from a school will have as much time as the school allows or 12 months from the end of the term, whichever comes first, to clear the incomplete. Students who fail to provide a grade that clears the incomplete will be held financially responsible, said Ms Buan.
TA also allows students to pursue and receive one voluntary professional certificate or license choice during their AF career, said Ms. Buan.
To receive TA for other than academic degrees, students must provide a program plan for courses at an accredited post-secondary institutions before registration, said Ms. Buan. If the plan meets the guidelines, military members may use a maximum of $9,000 toward the certificate or license.
TA may not be used for tuition covered by the Veteran’s Administration, said Ms. Buan.
For more information on TA, call 784-4184.