Aiming High is more than a motto – the United States Air Force includes tuition assistance (MilTA), active duty education assistance, and your earned Veteran GI Bill benefits. Here’s what you need to know about tuition assistance programs available to you while serving in the Air Force.
The Air Force Military Tuition Assistance (MilTA)
All active duty personnel are eligible for tuition assistance for in-class programs and online learning. This financial assistance is NOT a loan and you are not obligated to repay it. The Air Force Tuition Assistance program is also SEPARATE from the GI Bill, but may be used in conjunction with it, if you choose to use your GI Bill while on active duty. Air Force Tuition Assistance is at the discretion of your command. Supervisors must approve tuition assistance requests, and requests may be denied if pursuing a course of study may interfere with an airman’s current training program. This is a great opportunity to help you finish a current degree or achieve a certification to help with your next rank advancement or other education and career goals.
Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits
Air Force Tuition Assistance Benefits can cover up to 100% of the tuition and fees related to your degree. The maximum amount awarded is $250 per credit hour for semester programs, or $166.66 per credit hour for quarters, for a fiscal year total of $3,750. Previously, military tuition assistance limits were $4,500 per fiscal year, but Department of the Air Force announced a $3,750 military tuition assistance cap per fiscal year that went into effect for college courses beginning Oct. 1, 2020. This is enough for most community and state programs, including schools located near base who adjust their fees to help active duty military members pursue higher education.
If you need additional funding for your chosen program, you may use your GI Bill or apply for federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant. Your school’s financial aid office can help you with this and walk you through filling out the FAFSA. Check with your school’s financial aid office for any other military scholarships that you may qualify for.
This program is designed for associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level courses. In general, to achieve a degree higher than what you currently hold.
It is important to note that tuition assistance funds can always be used to achieve additional CCAF degrees regardless of any degrees you currently hold. Alternatively, if you already hold a CCAF degree, you are free to pursue an associate degree from a civilian college in an unrelated course of study if you do not already hold an associate degree from a civilian college.
If you use tuition assistance to earn an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree, and you wish to continue your education, a second master’s degree may be approved if you choose a degree from the list of critical education programs such as foreign language or cyber laws.
Applying for Tuition Assistance (TA) Benefits
To apply, you must be approved by your supervisor. The application window is 45 days prior to the start of a semester to 7 days before the start of class. Plan ahead and go to the Air Force Virtual Education Center (AFVEC) to start the process before you are under the gun.
Approved Airmen sign the MilTA Form 1227: this authorizes the military to WITHDRAW funds from your pay if you do not maintain satisfactory grades. To successfully complete your program and keep the TA, you must complete your course with a 2.0, or “C” average, as an undergraduate, and 3.0, or “B” average, as a graduate. Report your grades within 90 days of course completion or the reimbursement process will begin.
MilTA Form 1227 authorizes funds to be automatically withdrawn from your military pay for missing or unsatisfactory grades and incomplete courses. Once the reimbursement actions have begun they will not be stopped and you will not be refunded.
How to Complete the Tuition Assistance Online Application
The Tuition Assistance Online Application process can be completed in six easy steps.
- Reason for Request – Select the option that most identifies with your reason for pursuing tuition assistance.
- Name of Your School – Select the name of the school you plan to attend from the list. If it is not available, report to the base education office and request the TA form.
- Dates – Confirm the beginning and ending term dates for when you will attend. These dates may not be the same as the start and end dates for your classes…they are the official dates for the semester or quarter. If the term dates do not match, your TA will not be approved.
- Course Information – Either choose from the pre-loaded course catalog or enter the information manually. If your school and term dates match, a pop up window should appear with a current course list. Choose the course numbers for all the classes you will be enrolling in for the term.
- Registration Fees – Choose the registration fees from the list, entering each fee type and cost separately.
- Verify Information – Review the information on your TA form to confirm that it is correct. If any of your tuition or fees are not eligible for coverage, you will receive a “VA Top-Up” GI Bill option. If you wish to use this option, follow the link to verify your eligibility. Read and agree to all conditions and certifications, enter your full name and MY AFVEC password, and submit your application.
If your supervisor does not authorize your tuition assistance request, it will be auto-disapproved on the term start date at midnight. Be sure to stay in contact with your supervisor to be sure your requests are reviewed in a timely manner to avoid this.
When your tuition assistance is approved, you will receive a form with the your digital signature and that of the approving official. Send a copy of the tuition assistance approval form to the school that you are attending.
Limitations on TA
There are limitations to who is eligible for TA and what programs you may use tuition assistance for.
- Supervisors are required to approve all Military TA requests
- MilTA will be automatically denied for Airmen with unfavorable information files, failed or overdue fitness tests, referral EPR/OPRs, or on a Control Roster
- Foreign language courses are only approved if they are on the approved shortage list
- Cannot be used for multiple degrees at the same level
- Does not cover miscellaneous fees, books, or supplies
- Courses must be completed with a passing grade or TA must be paid back
- TA cannot be used while in formal training such as Basic Military Training, OTS, PME, or Squadron Officer School
There are some exceptions for graduate level but many require additional enlistment time and are subject to specific areas of study.
Placement Exams to Test Out of Classes
Many colleges offer the option for incoming students to take exams to test out of entry level classes for credit. Complete the exams for these introductory classes with a passing grade (think into to psychology and US History I) and earn full credit for the course. This can reduce the number of classes you have to take to complete your degree. CLEP and DANTES are covered by Tuition Assistance.
The US Air Force offers many educational assistance programs. Take time to research and see which is the best option for you. The Air Force in particular has many different career paths for enlisted who want to promote to Officer. AF Tuition Assistance and the college credit you earn while completing daily tasks may be just what you need for your career advancement goals.
Tia Christopher is a proud US Navy Veteran. Christopher’s writing has focused on explaining military benefits in plain language and helping fellow service members transition from the military. Christopher was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Woman Veteran Champion of Change.
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