Air Force Tuition Assistance
To the military, educated servicemembers are valuable servicemembers. Earning an education helps to provide maturity, a broader perspective, and better training and study habits, which are all particularly important in the modern and very professional US Air Force. To provide for the educational needs of every airman, NCO and officer, the Air Force provides a very comprehensive educational assistance program. Air Force Tuition Assistance (TA) provides Air Force personnel with tuition funds that are largely free of additional obligation. This allows servicemembers to pursue and complete an education without using their own personal funds.
What is Air Force Tuition Assistance?
Air Force Tuition Assistance provides full tuition coverage for up to a maximum of $250 per semester hour (or the equivalent at the servicemember's school). However, an annual cap limits the total amount of tuition assistance to $4,500 per fiscal year. Those who are eligible for GI Bill benefits may also apply for the Tuition Assistance Top-Up program. This program allows servicemembers to draw from their GI Bill funds to pay tuition expenses beyond those covered by TA.
The aim of Air Force Tuition Assistance is to put college education within the reach of all Air Force personnel. As such, there are some limits to the program. TA can only be used to pursue a specific academic or technical degree program, and the program must be at a level higher than the servicemember's current level of education. For example, if a member of the Air Force has an associate's degree, he or she may use TA to pay for tuition toward a bachelor's degree, but not another associate's degree. However, associate's degrees from the Community College of the Air Force (CCA) are an exception.You may have an associate's degree from the CCAF and still use TA to pursue a civilian associate's degree.
Who is Eligible for Air Force TA?
All enlisted airmen are eligible for Air Force Tuition Assistance. They do not incur any additional service obligation by participating in TA, so long as their courses end while they are still in the service. Officers do incur an additional service obligation, and are required to serve at least one year following the completion date of the course. This runs concurrently with other service obligations; it does not add to them.
How Do I Apply for Air Force Assistance Tuition Benefits?
Applying for Air Force Tuition Assistance is convenient and easy. Applications can be completed almost entirely online, although a trip to the education center is advisable, and may be required by some units. Servicemembers must log on to the Air Force Portal and go to the Air Force Virtual Education Center. The site walks users through the following six steps for applying for TA:
- Select the reason for the request.
- Select the name of the civilian educational institution; if it is not listed, an application must be submitted using a form from the base Education Center.
- Enter the dates of the school term.
- Enter the course information provided in the school's course catalog.
- Enter the registration fees (only mandatory fees; optional fees are not covered by TA).
- Verify information and submit the request.
Once the above process is complete, servicemembers will be sent a copy of the approved Tuition Assistance form. One copy of this form is sent to the school (this is very important, as it is required for the Tuition Assistance process) and a second copy should be retained be the servicemember for his or her own records.
Anything Else to Know about Air Force TA?
In order to make sure that a servicemember registers with Air Force TA promptly and correctly, he or she must make sure that all of his or her information is correct. In general, hold-ups and problems with processing TA can result from:
- Incomplete information. The educational record in the Air Force Virtual Education Center must be complete with current unit, phone number, degree plan, and all other data.
- Late Grades. Those who are still missing grades for a course that ended more than 60 days earlier cannot apply for TA.
- Future Courses. Servicemembers can only apply for TA for courses that have a start date within the next 30 days.
- Late Application. The application for TA must be submitted before courses start.