by Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
81st Training Wing Public Affairs
3/20/2013 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Although military tuition assistance is suspended through the end of the 2013 fiscal year, there are other options that can keep advanced education a possibility for all Airmen.
"To get money outside of tuition assistance from the Air Force is probably going to take a little more time and effort on the part of the individual," said Darryl Rink, 81st Force Support Squadron services support manager. "But, there are a lot of avenues out there to help pay for college. At the very least, these are ways to carry people over until the next fiscal year."
Possible education routes include the Montgomery GI Bill, Reserve Education Assistance Program, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Air University's online master's degree program, federal grants and federal financial aid.
The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support will still offer CLEP tests that allow military students to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of free exams.
"There are a lot of folks out there who don't realize how close they are to a Community College of the Air Force degree," said Rink. "Now is a good time for people to look at what they can do with DANTES and CLEP testing."
The education office also holds education fairs where colleges set up information booths for interested Airmen. The next education fair is scheduled for April 12 at the Keesler exchange. A lot of scholarship applications go through the schools themselves, so meeting with college representatives is a great resource, said Rink.
The Sablich Center houses representatives from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, William Carey University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Southern Mississippi who can offer assistance and class scheduling for on-base, off-base or online courses.
Outside of going directly to colleges, development in individual Air Force specialty codes and profession of arms can provide opportunity for college credit, said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Pitts, 81st Force Support Squadron career assistance advisor.
"It is very important for Airmen to understand this is a tuition assistance suspension," says Pitts. "We all must trust that our leadership will make the right fiscal decision for the future of this program. In the meantime, Airmen must explore additional options to pursue off-duty education. There are a lot of options available for Airmen interested in off-duty education, and we are building a product to advertise this information to our Airmen very soon. "
Further educational support can be found at the education office in room 224, Sablich Center, (228) 376-8473; military.com, and dantes.doded.mil.