Changes to Air Force tuition assistance program
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Amid budget struggles that earlier this year threatened to kill tuition assistance for active duty servicemembers altogether, the Air Force has pushed back applications for this academic year and given commanders veto power over airmen’s classes.
According to an Air Force announcement on Thursday, requests for funding to cover classes starting on or after Oct. 1won’t be accepted until Sept. 9. In past years, the application window has started on Aug. 1. The announcement says the delay should help avoid hiccups in the Air Force Virtual Education Center, the online site to apply for tuition assistance.
Airmen will also have to seek their supervisor’s consent to take courses.
“Supervisors may deny requests for Airmen in any level of upgrade training, if the Airman will be TDY (on official travel) or will be PCSing during the academic term, if the Airman is enrolled in PME (professional military education) or for any other factors the supervisor determines would impede the Airman’s ability to complete the course,” the announcement said.
Airmen who aren’t up to snuff professionally, including those with failed physical fitness tests or adverse action on their records, will have their tuition assistance requests automatically denied.
Foreign language classes will also only be covered if they’re part of a degree program, or on the “language shortage” list. Airmen can only pursue degrees at a level they’ve already achieved — for example, a second Bachelor’s — if it falls into a handful of specialty categories.
Tuition Assistance was abruptly halted in March in light of sequestration budget cuts, but then reinstated by Congress in an appropriations bill. Earlier this month, Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning told airmen at a town hall that they shouldn’t worry about Tuition Assistance changes in the near term, though the future was uncertain.
“I wish I could come out here and give you answers about what next year or 2015 is going to look like,” Air Force News Service quoted him as saying on Aug. 22, “but there are a lot of variables yet to play themselves out. It’s as difficult politically as I’ve ever seen it in Washington.”