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Advanced education still within reach

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Sequestration is spreading unfavorable changes in numerous government entities, to include the military's education benefits as active-duty Airmen lost the ability to apply for tuition assistance effective March 11.

With this change, however, there are still avenues for even the Airmen with the tightest budgets to continue their education.

"Believe me, this was a tough decision because our Air Force truly values education. ... We understand suspension of TA benefits makes things tougher," said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody in a letter to Airmen.

"As you know, our Nation and our Air Force are working through some significant fiscal challenges. The combined effects of continuing resolution and sequestration are forcing some very tough decisions," he added. "Given this environment we've had to make the decision to suspend military Tuition Assistance for the remainder of this fiscal year."

While it may be tougher to obtain a Community College of the Air Force degree or higher without the assistance of TA, it is by no means impossible. All one has to do is look to the multitude of programs still available for financial aid.

Below is merely a sample of the myriad programs and resources available to aid in financing higher education:

CLEP and DANTES
A person can accomplish the majority of a CCAF degree or complete many pre-requisites and electives requirements for a bachelor's degree through the College-Level Examination Program and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests. CLEP and DSST testing opportunities are still available. CLEP and DANTES study guides are available at the education center in Bldg. 606.

Grants, Loans and Scholarships
- Grants and scholarships are beneficial to students as they do not require repayment. Loans, however, do require repayment, though some loans do incur interest or do not require payments be made until after graduation. There are various requirements to obtain certain grants, loans and scholarships, so it is imperative the student understands the conditions that apply.

- All people continuing their education should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The Office of Federal Student Aid, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, provides grants, loans and work-study funds for college or career school. For more information, visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.

- Many service members are eligible to apply for a Federal Pell Grant, which is based off financial need. This grant does not need to be repaid, however, not all applicants receive a grant.
- Additional grant and loan information can be found at http://www.ed.gov/fund/grants-apply.html.

- For assistance in understanding what types scholarships may be available and how to apply, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/finding-scholarships.

- A listing of websites that provide information about available scholarships can be found at http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Sub%20Pages/Counselor_Support/Online_Scholarships.html.  

Post-9/11 GI Bill
Service members can use their Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits while on active duty if it was not transferred to a dependent. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used for apprenticeships, on-the job training, certifications, non-college degree programs, as well as education. It is imperative to consider the pros and cons of doing so to ensure the person is making the best financial and educational decision. Also, federal grants and loans can be used in conjunction with veterans' benefits, allowing more flexibility in funding one's education. For more information, or to activate these benefits, visit www.gibill.va.gov.  

Other Education and Financial Aid Resources
- Military members can complete the Social Science or an elective CCAF credit through the U.S. Air Force Culture and Language Center online. For more information, visit http://www.culture.af.mil/index.aspx  

- Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support website: http://www.dantes.doded.mil/DANTES_Homepage.html  

- DANTES Resources and Information: http://www.dantes.doded.mil/Sub%20Pages/Resources/Resources_Main.html#FinAid  
 
"We remain as committed as ever to ensuring Airmen have the opportunity and means to pursue educational goals. We're still looking at the impacts for FY14 and will do our best to have TA reinstated, although we'll likely need to review the eligibility requirements to ensure sustainability," Cody continued. "We owe you more information on this and will provide details as soon as we can."

For additional information on ways to continue your education without using tuition assistance, visit the education office in Bldg. 606 or call 720-847-6675. Additionally, updated information will be posted to the Air Force Virtual Education Center at https://www.my.af.mil/afvec.
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