SrA. Reagan Alesko, a recruiter for the 142nd Fighter Wing, does some light reading on Portland State University’s campus near downtown Portland, Ore. Air National Guard photo by TSgt. Steph Sawyer.?
The Air National Guard plans to roll out a new tuition assistance pilot program that offers Guardsmen in 12 states and two US territories up to $4,500 a year.
The three-year beta test, which is slated to begin Oct. 1, 2020, covers eligible members at 24 wings across Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
The ANG-run initiative “allows our drill status Guardsmen the chance to pursue funded off-duty educational opportunities,” according to Army MSgt. W. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman. The program applies only to the ANG.
“The Federal Tuition Assistance program will help the Air National Guard with our recruiting efforts as well as assist with retaining those already serving,” the program’s chief Col. Rick Hern added. “This will be another education benefit to offer, as currently the ANG [drill status Guardsmen] cannot utilize federal military tuition assistance unless they are on Title 10 or Title 32, Section 502 (f) orders, unlike our peers in the Army National Guard.”
Most states offer state tuition assistance to ANG members, and those airmen are also eligible for up to $392 per month for 36 months of full-time education under the Montgomery GI Bill. Lawmakers are pushing for the Defense Department to allow National Guard and Reserve members to use Montgomery GI Bill and FTA funding for the same college course.
Hern said people who use active-duty FTA and Reserve FTA cannot use the two funds to pay for the same course, and that the $4,500 annual cap applies to their combined use as well.
Expanding tuition assistance has earned supporters on Capitol Hill as well.
“Tuition assistance is an excellent recruitment tool,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in an Oct. 3 release. “Being able to offer some of the same benefits as others is only fair, and I applaud the Air National Guard for advancing these efforts. With a growing economy across the country and a booming economy in North Dakota, this move represents an important step toward helping the Guard compete for new members.”
ANG leaders will decide on the future of their FTA program based on the beta test’s success.
“There has not been any discussion to further expand the beta past the already chosen locations,” Hern said.