By Marcus Hill | Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Air Force decreased its tuition assistance allowance from $4,500 to $3,750 for fiscal year 2021. This was to mitigate the rise in the program’s users due to COVID-19, according to af.mil.
Tuition assistance is a program that pays tuition costs for Airmen who take college courses while on active duty.
When teleworking began in mid-March due to the pandemic, more Airmen began to use their TA benefits, causing the $750 reduction to ensure benefits remain for all program users. Credit hour limits remain $250 per semester hour and $166.66 per quarter hour.
“This reduction is across the board and it’s to allow for more people to be able to use TA,” said Dawn Hitt, 50th Force Support Squadron Education and Training section chief. “For us, we’re still doing everything that we normally do to help Airmen get to school.”
Once fiscal year 2022 approaches, Hitt said the Air Force will re-evaluate the program and consider restoring the $4,500 cap.
“If you normally use $4,500 each year or have already planned out your courses to the full TA amount, there may be other options available to supplement the $750 reduction,” said Glenn Franklin, 50th FSS marketing director.
Options such as scholarships are available for Airmen to use, whether that’s through the college they attend or privately funded.
Airmen may also use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid service. The FAFSA is an online form that allows college students to see their eligibility for financial aid and whether or not they qualify.
Should Airmen qualify to receive financial aid, they have the option of Pell Grants, which do not need to be repaid. Airmen can also use their GI Bill, if eligible.
Airmen on active duty for at least 90 days since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Time spent on active duty determines the Airman’s percentage of benefits.
Hitt cautioned Airmen to make sure they understand which method is best for their situation.
“We want to make sure if they use the GI Bill as an alternate funding source they know what they’re doing,” she said. “There are several GI Bills and most folks don’t know that. If they apply for one and then realize another was a better option, we can’t undo that. That’s why we want them to talk to us before selecting any of the GI Bills.”
Additional benefit options include the Chapter 30 Montgomery GI Bill, for Airmen who served at least two years active duty; Chapter 31, which is for vocational rehabilitation and employment and Chapter 35 for family members of those who are 100% disabled, prisoners of war or missing in action.
“Airmen can always reach out to us for help if they want to fund their education,” Hitt said. “We want to make sure any Airman who wants to go to school using this program is able to do so.”