by Lori Burling Alves
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
6/26/2006 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFPN) -- Diane Rhinehart is ready to compete in the job market once she and her active-duty husband return to the United States next summer. During her stay here, the mother of four has completed her master's degree in education from the University of Phoenix with the help of the Air Force.
Mrs. Rhinehart is one of several military spouses who are using the Air Force's Spouse Tuition Assistance Program for overseas families. Through the program, she has received $1,500 a year in tuition for her master's degree.
"It's a great opportunity to get financial assistance for an education, especially for people who don't qualify for educational grants, which I didn't," said Mrs. Rhinehart, who completed her student teaching last month at Incirlik Elementary School.
The Spouse Tuition Assistance Program, or STAP, is part of the Air Force Aid Society, which provides funding for Airmen and families for education, emergency leave, child care for PCS, scholarship programs and more.
"I wish more people would take advantage of (STAP)," said Jim Kenney, an assistant for the Air Force Aid Society at Incirlik. "If we used all the money we could probably get more. But, it is a financial obligation. We're only offering help; they still have to cover the cost of the rest of their tuition and books."
Under STAP, spouses are allotted up to 50 percent of tuition or a maximum of $300 per term and must attend one of the universities and colleges who are contracted with the program.
"It's really easy to get the money," said Shay Tull-Cook, 39th Mission Support Squadron education technician. "You basically submit some paperwork to us and we send the money to the school you've been accepted to."
The paperwork includes the STAP form, a copy of the active-duty spouse's leave and earning statement, a copy of the applicant's earning statement, and a copy of all financial aid documents an applicant may have qualified for from the government.
Students receiving funding are expected to pass the courses. An undergraduate student must receive a grade of C or better and a graduate student must receive a B or better. If not, the student must pay the Air Force back. Funding from the program is distributed to enlisted spouses first and officer spouses second. Also, applicants who are working on their associate's or bachelor's degrees get first priority.
"It's a question of if you would rather earn $8 an hour or $19 an hour," Mr. Kenney said. "Earning that college degree is going to put you a step ahead and open up more and better jobs for you."