Starting Oct. 1, Air Force reservists no longer will have to pay for classes out of pocket and then wait to be reimbursed by the tuition assistance program.
“The process for the airmen is going to remain the same as far as the application process,” said Tech Sgt. Edward Wilchinski, Air Force Reserve Command’s tuition assistance program manager. “It’s now going to be the responsibility of AFRC to make this payment up front instead of the student having to pay it up front.”
Right now, reservists have to foot the entire bill for tuition, which can be up to $750 per course, and then wait anywhere between 30 and 120 days to be reimbursed, Wilchinski said.
That was just too long, said Col. Heather Connahey, chief of the AFRC’s personnel division.
“We don’t have the resources to actually make a quick turn and we knew we had to do something in order to provide good customer service to our airmen, because a lot of airmen join for the educational benefits,” Connahey said.
Reservists who start classes before Oct. 1 will have to go through the current process of paying upfront and waiting to be reimbursed, she said.
“We will still have months of those folks that we’re still going to be processing under the old system,” Connahey said.
Tuition assistance covers both online and traditional higher education institutions, which already bill the Air Force directly for active-duty airmen, officials said.
The new payment process does not require more money to be budgeted for tuition assistance, he said.
“We’ve always had a dedicated fund for tuition assistance that’s separate outside of regular Air Force,” Wilchinski said. “It comes out of our operating funds. It’s been dedicated for educational improvement and forwarding education of our reservists.”
The change for reservists comes as the Air Force plans for changes to tuition assistance for active-duty airmen in 2014. Air Force officials have warned that they may no longer be able to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for active-duty airmen and that they may need to place limits on who is eligible.