Does the Air Force Offer Tuition Assistance?

One of the major advantages to enrolling in the military is the post-secondary tuition assistance that is offered by the different military branches. Fortunately, the Air Force is no exception.

On October 1, 2002, the United States Air Force began to offer tuition assistance that covers 100 percent of the cost of off-duty courses. The program awards servicemen and women up to $250 per semester hour or $750 for a three hour course. The policy also established a $4,500 per year tuition assistance ceiling. Textbook costs are not covered by the program unless included in the tuition rates published by the institution the service member wished to attend.

In order to qualify for Air Force tuition assistance, a member must be an active duty service personnel who has accumulated at least 120 consecutive days of active duty or a reservist with at least 24 months of active duty. In order to receive the benefits, students must remain on active duty throughout the duration of the course. In addition, officers must agree to remain on active duty for two years prior to the completion of the course. The Air Force tuition assistance program is only applicable to undergraduate studies and does not apply to the pursuit of a master’s level degree. Air Force personnel may also pursue tuition assistance through the G.I. Bill, which requires 90 days of active status after September 11, 2001. Tuition assistance may be used for online distance learning as long as the institution is accredited.

Recent Changes

In March of 2013, tuition assistance benefits were cut by the Army, Marines, and the Air Force after sequestration cuts had taken place. However, benefits for Air Force members were reinstated the following month, stating that it intends to pay 100 percent of service personnel’s tuition costs as usual through the end of fiscal year 2013, which ends September 30th. Air Force officials have indicated that they expect tuition assistance to be available in 2014; however, it may not be substantial. Limits may be imposed on the types of courses that are approved for coverage, and tuition cost coverage may be reduced to 75 percent.

Future of Tuition Assistance

As of fiscal year 2013, members of the Air Force are able to enjoy tuition assistance benefits. However, it is important for those who plan to use the program in the future to plan for projected changes that may be made. Servicemen and women are encouraged to contribute to the G.I. Bill and to also pursue income-based government Pell grants and other forms of tuition assistance that are offered by colleges, universities, and other institutions.