Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New tuition assistance process eliminates up-front fees

by Master Sgt. J. LaVoie
Air Force Reserve Command

8/13/2013 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Air Force Reserve Command will implement a new tuition assistance payment process Oct. 1 that will eliminate up-front fees reservists pay for classes by enabling tuition payments to go directly to a university or college.

"This new TA process will be a huge relief for our members," said Col. Heather Connahey, chief of the AFRC personnel division.

Reservists currently have to wait up to 120 days after submitting their grades to be reimbursed for classes. Under the new process, they will still apply for tuition assistance through the Air Force Virtual Education Center. However, payment issues are taken out of their hands and handled by the Air Force, which will pay the school through an automated system.

Airmen will be able to apply under the new process in mid-September for classes that begin on or after Oct. 1. Once the administrative drop/add period ends for the course, the college or university will bill AFRC. Additionally, the college or university will load the grade in the system, although students are still responsible for ensuring the grade is loaded.

This new automated process will be a welcomed relief not just for students but also for program administrators, according to Tech Sgt. Ed Wilchinski, AFRC tuition assistance program manager.

Wilchinski explained that the old process involved printing and scanning several documents.

"It quickly became tedious and time-consuming as applications rolled in," said Wilchinski. As many as 80 applications are submitted on any given day, and reservists had to wait up to 120 days from the time they submitted their final grades to the time they received payments.

"[The old way] was a huge burden on the member," said Wilchinski. "We want them to be able to continue their education, not be held up by a process."

Most colleges are familiar with the process and system. However if an institution is unfamiliar with it, the approving education and training office can provide instructions. If additional assistance is needed, AFRC will connect the institution with a system expert.

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