New members of the Army National Guard will no longer have to meet a time in service benchmark before tapping into its tuition assistance program for undergraduate and graduate degrees, officials announced this week.
Instead, tuition assistance (TA) use will be tied to finishing Guard training requirements.
Currently, Army Guardsmen must serve a full year before using tuition assistance for an undergraduate degree, or 10 years to use it for a master's degree. Troops can receive 100 percent of their tuition covered up to $250 an hour and up to 16 semester hours each year.
Individual states might also have their own TA programs that lower the cost of schooling for their Guard members.
The change eliminates that one-year requirement. Starting Aug. 5, Army Guardsmen will be able to use TA as soon as they return home from the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course after Basic.
The change also removes the 10-year cap. Instead, TA can be applied to a graduate program once the next step of schooling is completed. Enlisted soldiers must finish the Advanced Leaders Course (ALC), officers must complete the Captains Career Course, and Warrant officers must finish the Warrant Officers Advanced Course. And troops who moved from enlisted to officer can complete either ALC or the captain's course to meet the requirement, officials said.
Officials said they are also considering a waiver process for the master's degree requirements for soldiers who are sitting on extensive Army schooling wait lists.
"We're going to let it ride and see what kind of feedback we're getting from soldiers and how many are in that situation," Ken Hardy, chief of the Army Guard's Education Services Branch, said in a release. "We've got to see how big of an issue it is first. If it's really a big problem, we may look at writing a policy to allow it and, if it's a small problem, at least allowing some exceptions to policy for these unique cases."
Hardy said officials are also considering removing the 16-hour annual cap.
"That's our next thing we want to look at and see if we can change the 16 credit hour cap," he said in the release.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at email@example.com.