Yokota tips, resources for education benefits
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- This article is part of a series informing Yokota Airmen of career-transition information and assisting programs.
For as long as Airmen stay active duty, the Air Force offers them $4,500 of tuition assistance every year. After six years of service that would be $27,000. There are a variety of options like this one for those who don't want to miss the opportunity of a military sponsored education.
Between TA, G.I. Bills, scholarships and special programs, Airmen can get their entire higher education for free. This article gathers information and advice about how to make that happen.
Natasha Jamerson, 374th Force Support Squadron education department chief of education, suggested that those planning their education take the time to write out goals: immediate, five-year and 10-year. As goals are accomplished and mile-markers are reached, she explained, it is important to celebrate and enjoy accomplishments.
The following is a list of available programs and details.
As with other military education benefits, TA can only be used to obtain a degree or certain job-related certifications. The degrees TA pays for are associates, bachelors and masters. TA also pays for certifications that are approved for the student's specific Air Force Specialty Code. For a list of approved certifications for each AFSC, visit https://afvec.langley.af.mil/afvec/Public/COOL/Default.aspx and click "search credentials."
There are important limitations applied to TA. TA covers a maximum of $250 per credit hour. If the cost of the class is more, then the Montgomery G.I. Bill is available to help cover the remaining cost. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average after completing 15 credit hours. If the GPA minimum is not maintained, students are required to pay for all future classes until they raise their GPA. Therefore, Jamerson advises students to be very cautious when choosing their work loads.
The above details and more are covered in the initial TA briefing, which applicants must attend before using TA. Contact the education center at 225-7337 for more information.
"I've seen people who used their TA to pay for a certification, associate's degree, bachelor's and master's degree," Jamerson said. "They used it for their entire education and were able to transfer their G.I. Bill benefits to their children. The money is here for you. Use it."
G.I. Bills offer up to 36 months of benefits to pay for classes. There are two G.I. Bill variances, the Montgomery and the Post-9/11. Service members can only use one bill at a time and they can only change their selected bill once.
The G.I. Bill Comparison Tool automatically calculates the benefits of each bill for the user's school. To use the comparison tool go to https://www.vets.gov/gi-bill-comparison-tool.
To see the current amounts of monthly benefits available from each bill, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/resources/benefits_resources/rate_tables.asp#Ch30.
The MGIB is available for military personnel who have served for at least two years of active duty. It can be used for 10 years after retirement or separation. The amount of benefit a member can receive monthly is based on several variables, including type of training, length of the member's service and their category.
According to Jamerson, most students use the Montgomery for "top up," meaning to pay the remaining cost of a class that TA does not cover.
For full details on the MGIB go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_ad.asp.
The Post 9/11 Bill is available for military personnel who have served for at least 90 days of active duty since Sept. 10, 2001. It can be used for 15 years after retirement or separation. The amount of benefit a member can receive monthly depends on the school. Unlike the MGIB it may also pay for books, supplies and housing.
Also unlike the MGIB, qualified Airmen can pass their Post 9/11 benefits to their dependents. To qualify, Airman must have served at least six years and have retainability of four years.
For full details on the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp.
Scholarships and special programs:
"Each year a lot of scholarships go are not granted because people don't apply for them," Jamerson said.
Jamerson highly recommends that students search for scholarships. She suggests visiting https://www.petersons.com/college-search/scholarship-search.aspx for a variety of options, including 1.5 million scholarships, grants, fellowships, prizes and forgivable loans.
Other options for free education money include applying for Federal Student Aid at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. Jamerson said that many Airmen applying for an undergraduate degree also qualify for the Pell Grant. For more information, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/pell.
Another way to get free college credits is through College Level Examination Program and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support Standardized Subject Test exams, which are college-level tests. For passing scores they grant college credits and for failing scores there are no repercussions. The first test for any subject is free and the University of Maryland University College on base offers many options. From April 18 until May 21, 2016, the second CLEP and DANTE will also be free as part of a promotion. Contact UMUC at 225-8922 for more information.
"If you have foreign language or math skills then get credit for it," Jamerson said. "Take as many CLEPs and DSSTs as possible. It's a free and easy way to fast-track your education."