JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Although Air Force Tuition Assistance is suspended, at least temporarily, Airmen can still pursue their Community College of the Air Force degree in other ways.
Alternatives to tuition assistance range from free College Level Examination Program and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support testing to the GI Bill and federal financial aid packages that are still available.
"We're pushing CLEP exams," Gay Close, 902nd Force Support Squadron education services specialist, said. "People have expressed concern that those will be taken away, but they're still going strong. Students who score high can earn college credit rather than taking the course."
Numerous CLEP tests and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests are offered, from language and literature to computers and finance, Close said.
"The CLEP exams are timed and feature five general topics - college mathematics, college composition, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences and history," she said. "The general topics cover a little bit of everything under that specific title. The DANTES exams are untimed and feature just strictly specific subjects."
CLEP exams are generally for freshman- and sophomore-level courses, Close said.
"We would look at an Airman's CCAF degree requirements and see what they need," she said. "CCAF will take up to 30 hours of course credit through CLEP."
Students can take every single CLEP exam one time for free, but if they have to repeat an exam, they have to pay a fee, Close said. Students also have to wait six months before they take the same exam again.
"We also recommend that no one take one of these exams unless they're prepared," she said.
CLEP and DANTES testing is offered at the National Test Centers at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, building 208; JBSA-Lackland, building 5725; and Wayland Baptist University, 11550 Interstate 35 North, San Antonio.
The Federal Pell Grant Program and other forms of federal financial aid are other options for Airmen, Close said. Pell grants provide up to $5,500 per year, which will pay for four to seven classes and books. Information is available at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid website, www.FAFSA.ed.gov.
The GI Bill is another option, but not one that is recommended for younger Airmen, who should consider CLEP exams and other alternatives, Close said.
"The GI Bill is specific to the individual," she said. "It's best to discuss it with a Veterans Affairs representative."
The Randolph Education Services Center also offers a scholarship starter kit and provides information on financial aid for wounded warriors, Close said.
"The starter kit is a huge list, but it's well worth your time to review," she said.
Some schools provide tuition breaks for active-duty members, Close said.
"If anybody's looking to take classes at a particular school, they should find out if there are any specials," she said.
Close also mentioned a free online CCAF Introduction to Culture course offered through the Air Force Culture and Language Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
"That course provides three elective hours for social sciences," she said.
Websites that include information on scholarships and funding options include www.needalift.org, a college financial aid guide from the American Legion; www.militaryfamily.org, military spouse scholarships from the National Military Family Association; www.militaryscholar.org, information from the Fisher House Foundation on scholarships for military members, their spouses and children; www.pattillmanfoundation.org, scholarships for veterans, active duty and their spouses; and www.afa.org/aef/aid/scholars,asp, various scholarships from the Air Force Association.