Back to school: Education benefits for reservists

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Serving in the Air Force Reserve comes with its fair share of challenges and sacrifices, but it also comes with crucial benefits, especially ones that can impact an Airman’s life far beyond their enlistment or commission.

One of those benefit categories is education. Carrie Meyls of the 403rd Force Support Squadron’s Education and Training Office here, is one of the individuals in charge of informing and assisting Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 403rd Wing with their educational needs and goals.

There are numerous programs to choose from when it comes to funding for higher education. The big three are the Military Tuition Assistance program, Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve, and Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Tuition Assistance:

According to the Air Force’s Personnel Center, MilTA is available at 100% of tuition, up to $250 per semester hour, $4,500 annually, for off-duty courses at accredited institutions who have signed the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding in pursuit of approved degree programs.

As far as eligibility, members have to have completed initial active duty training--Basic Military Training and their technical school--and be in good standing in pay and points through the duration of their course(s).

“For those trying to get tuition assistance, they have to come through our office,” said Meyls.

Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve:

The funding for the MGIB-SR differs in that it’s doled out on a fixed monthly basis. The current monthly rate is $397 and the benefits max out at 36 months, said Meyls.

Similar to tuition assistance, IADT completion and being in good standing in your Selected Reserve unit is required to qualify, plus applicants must have a six-year service obligation, or if they’re an officer, they must have agreed to serve six years beyond their initial service obligation.

While Meyls and her team can provide information about the GI Bill, she said to apply, one has to go through Veterans Affairs.

Post-9/11 GI Bill:

Of the three programs, the Post-9/11 differs the most.

Unlike the latter two, qualifications and rates are contingent on active duty service time. The more time an Airman has, the higher percentage of tuition and fees covered by the bill.

According to the VA’s website, the minimum cumulative post-9/11 active duty service is 90 days, which allows for a beginning rate of 50% coverage of in-state tuition and fees.

For reservists without prior active duty service, it’s important to know what counts towards those days.

“Basic training and the first tech school someone goes to does not count towards that active duty time,” said Meyls. “Also, drill weekend and annual tour days do not count.”

While those don’t count, there are plenty of ways a reservist can get that time: deployments, man-days, seasoning training days, subsequent technical training days, etc.

Another big difference is that these benefits are transferrable to dependents.

Like with the MGIB-SR, this bill is offered through the VA.

There are limitations as far as using any of the three together. Tuition Assistance can be used to supplement either of the GI bills, but if an Airman chooses to use their Post-9/11 benefits, they forfeit their eligibility for the MGIB-SR option.

In addition to those financial aid options, there are other benefits offered to service members working towards a degree of higher learning.

For example, there are the College Level Examination and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support programs. Through CLEP and DANTES, an Airman is afforded the opportunity to take a standardized test on any of the subjects offered, and, upon passing, as long as the institution accepts these tests, college credit is granted.

“Bellevue University has a site here at Keesler and they are the contact for CLEP and DANTES exams,” said Meyls. “Through them they can sign you up and facilitate the tests.”

For more information or to sign up for testing, visit their website here or call 228-376-8750.

“There’s a lot to all of these programs, so we try to offer opportunities for anyone interested in learning more information by providing monthly briefings,” said Meyls. “The briefings take place at 2 p.m. on the Sunday of drill weekends and the third Wednesday of every month.”

The Education and Training Office is located in the Sablich Center, room 221, and Meyls can be reached during the week at 228-377-2603. Master Sgt. Manuel Cedeno (228-377-6651) and Tech. Sgt. Nicole DePew (228-377-3990) are available during UTA weekends.