By Sgt. Sarah Enos
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash.-Until recently, the Army Tuition Assistance program paid college tuition costs and approved fees for active duty service members up to $4,500 every fiscal year at a maximum rate of $250 per semester hour.
In early March, military TA programs were suspended due to current fiscal challenges, but service members assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., continue to pursue their educational goals and count on the education centers here for guidance.
Amy J. Moorash, advising branch chief for the David L. Stone and John D. "Bud" Hawk Education Centers, said that the JBLM Army Continuing Education System is a program that supports professional and personal development. ACES offers a variety of options to pay for college.
The staff at the education centers work toward helping troops become more proficient in their profession by providing one-on-one academic and vocational counseling, scholarship searches, testing and also by connecting Soldiers with education resources.
Their mission is to promote lifelong learning, readiness and resiliency through flexible and relevant education programs, services and systems in support of the total Army family.
"We work with numerous local education organizations to provide updated information on free money you can get to pay for college," Moorash said.
Taking advantage of college level exams and subject standardized tests without charge on JBLM is another avenue to gain credit toward personal degree plans.
"You can stretch the money you do have on any remaining classes you need to complete your degree," Moorash said.
M. Kathleen Connolly, Stone and Hawk education services officer, recommends that Soldiers visit several websites online.
For assistance with credentialing and accessing transcripts of military training visit www.cool.army.mil and http://jst.doded.mil.
The Military Scholarships and Financial Explorer website at www.mcsfex.net currently offers more than 5,500 scholarships and financial aid resources. Additionally, the office of Federal Student Aid, found at www.fafsa.ed.gov, provides grants, loans and work-study funds for college or career schools.
Connolly recommends using GI Bill benefits only when other funding sources and options have been exhausted. This is because the benefit amounts may be less when used while the Soldier is on active duty.
The McChord Field Education and Training Center began offering an information briefing regarding alternatives for TA to airmen on Wednesday, Mar. 13. These briefings will continue every other Wednesday at 1 p.m. Stone Education Center will follow suit and offer its first briefing for Soldiers on Tuesday, Mar. 26 at both 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
For updates on TA and questions about educational services, Soldiers can call (253) 967-7174 and airmen can call (253) 982-9900. Service members can also visit the Stone Education Center located on JBLM-Main at 6242 Colorado Avenue, the Hawk Education Center on JBLM-North at building 11577, 41st Division and C Street or the McChord Field Education and Training Center at building 851 Lincoln Blvd for a walk-in appointment.