In response to the recent passage of an amendment barring the armed services from cutting all funding for TA programs, the Air Force has restored their tuition assistance program. The program had previously been suspended in an attempt to meet the provisions of the Budget Control Act.
The Air Force intends to pay 100 percent of tuition costs for qualified airmen through fiscal 2013 and there will be no restrictions on what courses servicemembers can take for the rest of the fiscal year. Air Force officials expect tuition assistance to be available in 2014; however benefits are likely to be reduced since they would need almost double the requested funding to pay for tuition assistance in 2014 if no changes are made. Potential solutions include limiting the types of approved courses and possibly reducing the reimbursement to less than 100 percent.
Tuition assistance is available for active duty personnel who must apply for tuition assistance online using the Air Force Virtual Education Center. After creating an account, airmen can use the AFVEC to complete the entire application process and track their tuition assistance requests. Once complete, applications are submitted to the local education center for final approval or disapproval. Any servicemember whose request has been approved will receive notification and an approved TA form. A copy of the approved form must be sent to the school.
Requests may be disapproved if there is no degree plan in the records. Requests for courses that start more than 30 days into the future or for courses that have already started will also be disapproved. Tuition assistance is also not available for courses at a lower level than the highest educational level already completed by the airman.
There have been no changes in eligibility for airmen who wish to take advantage of the tuition assistance program. Although airmen are no longer required to obtain their supervisor's signature on their TA form, they are expected to discuss their schedule with their supervisor in advance.
Except for Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) courses, tuition assistance is not available for post-master’s degree courses or for courses leading to a lateral or lower level degree than the airman already possesses, such as earning an associate's degree if they already have a bachelor's degree or earning a second bachelor’s degree.
Tuition assistance is provided for a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree regardless of the airman’s current education level. In addition, tuition assistance will be provided for a civilian college associate degree even if the airman has a CCAF associate degree provided they do not possess a civilian associate or higher degree.
The maximum amount paid for tuition assistance is 100 percent of institution charges for tuition and instructional fees. Reimbursement cannot exceed $250 per semester credit hour ($166 per quarter credit hour) or $4,500 per fiscal year. Tuition assistance can also be used for registration fees only if the fees are mandatory as a condition of enrollment. Airmen may have the choice of using a “top-up” GI Bill option if TA does not cover some or all of their tuition expenses. This option is available for airmen who qualify for the GI Bill.
Prospective students are highly encouraged to conduct their own research as government rulings and regulations change frequently and should consult an education service officer for the most accurate and up-to-date information on tuition assistance benefits, eligibility and requirements.