NEWS | March 20, 2013

Alternatives for Airmen obtaining college degrees

By Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The Air Force announced the suspension of new applications for tuition assistance March 12, 2013, due to budget cuts from the Congressional sequestration process. More than 104,000 Airmen used tuition assistance in 2012, which cost the service $128 million.

The Army, Coast Guard and Marines have also suspended their tuition assistance programs.

Joint Base Charleston Airmen interested in pursuing their college education may find the news disheartening, but there are still many alternatives available to pursue a degree including multiple alternatives to obtaining a Community College of the Air Force degree without tuition assistance.

A variety of options remain for military students to finance their
educational goals, links to useful websites are listed below that offer
additional information on possible financial options.

Useful Links:

9/11 G.I. Bill -- Application for Benefits
http://www.gibill.va.gov/apply-for-benefits/application/

Free Application for Federal Student Aid
http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

DANTES -- Financial Aid Information
http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Sub%20Pages/Resources/Resources_Main.html#FinAid

DANTES -- Scholarship Web Sites
http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Sub%20Pages/Counselor_Support/Online_Scholarship
s.html

All of the general education requirements for the CCAF can be completed with free CLEP and DANTES tests. Study guides for the tests are located at the JB Charleston - Air Base library. Individuals interested in CLEP and DANTES can also go to the Peterson's Air Force Education Resource Center at www.petersons.com/airforce.

At the Petersons site, Airmen will find practice tests for all 33 subjects and the website maintains "Master the CLEP," an e-book that has subject reviews and practice tests for the five general CLEP subject tests required for your CCAF (college composition, humanities, college mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences/history.)

In addition to obtaining a CCAF, there are other alternatives available to your college degree.

Airmen can apply for Pell grants and/or student loans. Information on these programs is available at www.FAFSA.ed.gov. FAFSA.gov is a website where students can complete and submit their FAFSA online. Students and families may also print the FAFSA on the web worksheet and PDF FAFSA from the site. After submitting the FAFSA, students may use this site to check the status of their application, view processing results, and submit corrections. 

Pell Grants provide up to $5000 per year and, on average, pay for four to seven classes and books. The FAFSA website also provides information on low interest loans to pay for tuition.

Other federal resources include:

www.studentaid.gov

Studentaid.gov is Federal Student Aid's gateway website for students. It provides a wealth of knowledge, including information about applying for college and financial aid, information about financial aid, scholarship and career searches, and managing loan repayment.

www.fafsa4caster.ed.gov

If you want to begin exploring your financial aid options and get an early start on the financial aid process, try FAFSA4caster. FAFSA4caster.ed.gov allows students and families to receive an early estimate of eligibility for federal student aid. This website provides students with an opportunity to increase their knowledge of the financial aid process and become familiar with the various types of federal student aid that are available. 

www.pin.ed.gov 

On this site, students and parents may apply for a Federal Student Aid Personal Identification Number, or FSA PIN. A FSA PIN allows students and parents to sign the FAFSA electronically. A FSA PIN will also allow students to access application information after they submit the FAFSA, sign and access other financial aid documents such as loan promissory notes, and access loan information after they leave college.

http://www.finaid.org/

The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid website includes information on scholarships, loans and information on financial aid applications.
Other useful websites:

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college

http://www.scholarshipexperts.com/

http://www.blackexcel.org/link4.htm

http://www.estudentloan.com/

http://www.finaid.org/military/

http://www.fastweb.com

The Post-911 and Montgomery GI Bill are also available for qualified active-duty individuals. However, Airmen should remember that part-time students get paid less than full-time students and will not be able to obtain the basic housing allowance that individuals are eligible for once they separate or retire from the military.

A less popular option is paying tuition outright, which, if you can afford it, can result in a substantial tax benefit. For example, the American Opportunity Tax Credit provides a maximum annual credit of $2,500.

Airmen with additional questions can contact the JB Charleston - Air Base education office. Once there, they can also get additional information to see what scholarships are available and how to apply to them.

For information on all education programs, visit the Air Force Virtual Education Center at https://my.af.mil or call 963-4575/7201.