Changes to Tuition Assistance Program Make Benefits More Accessible
The Army National Guard’s Tuition Assistance Program recently underwent changes that resulted in Guard Soldiers receiving almost immediate access to education benefits.
Effective August 5, 2018, the newly amended Tuition Assistance Program now offers increased access to higher learning opportunities and benefits.
Previously, Soldiers were required to wait one year after completing Advanced Individual Training (AIT) before becoming eligible to use tuition assistance benefits. Now, the one-year waiting period has been removed.
“Soldiers will now come home [from AIT] and they can immediately use their benefits,” explained Ken Hardy, chief of the Army National Guard’s Education Services Branch.
Officers who have completed the Basic Officer Leaders Course and warrant officers who have graduated from the Warrant Officer Basic Course will also be immediately eligible for tuition assistance, according to Pamela Raymer, chief of the Army Continuing Education System, Human Resources Command.
Additionally, the changes to the program remove the requirement for Soldiers to complete 10 years of service before tuition assistance can be used toward a master’s degree. Instead, benefits for obtaining a master’s are now tied to professional military education requirements. The requirements ensure Soldiers are on track in their military career as they further their education.
“The biggest benefit is easier access,” said Hardy. “It’s always good to have as much access to your benefits as you can possibly have, with few restrictions.”
The military education requirements only apply to Soldiers who are pursuing a master’s degree and previously used tuition assistance to earn a bachelor’s degree. If a Soldier did not use tuition assistance for their undergraduate degree, the military education requirements do not apply.
Adherence to the education requirements calls for enlisted Soldiers to complete the Advanced Leaders Course, officers to complete the Captains Career Course and Warrant officers to complete the Warrant Officers Advanced Course.
A waiver process is under consideration for Soldiers following the military education requirements who are unable to comply due to circumstances beyond their control.
“You have some Soldiers who have put in for school and it’s a three-year wait for an open seat,” explained Hardy. “We’re going to let it ride and see what kind of feedback we get from Soldiers and how many are in that situation. If it is a big problem, we may look at writing a policy to , it. If it is a small problem, we may at least allow some exceptions for these unique cases.”
Held over from the old Tuition Assistance Program is the 16-credit-hours-per-year limit. Though, according to Hardy, that limit may be increased in the future. The credit-hour cap applies regardless of whether a Soldier is using the benefit to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
For more information about the tuition assistance program and its available benefits, Soldiers should contact their State’s education services officer. Individual States may offer separate tuition assistance plans that provide benefits in addition to those from the national level.
Ultimately, the new changes to the national Tuition Assistance Program are making it easier for Soldiers to further their education faster.
According to Raymer, currently less than 20 percent of Soldiers in all components use tuition assistance.
“We’re hoping this new policy will encourage more Soldiers to sign up for tuition assistance,” she noted. “This will help them professionally in the Army and increase their employability [in the civilian sector].”
To find contact information for your State’s education services office go to State.Nationalguard.com, click on your State, then scroll to the bottom of the page for a listing of that State’s education office phone, email and web address.
By Staff Writer Tatyana White-Jenkins