AZ Guard provides opportunity for higher education
AZ Guard provides opportunity for higher education
PHOENIX – Many members of the Arizona National Guard will start this year with a personal goal in mind, to begin their pursuit of a higher education.
Surprisingly, many National Guard members are unfamiliar with the process for enacting their education benefits or don’t know what they are actually eligible to receive. This leads to an underutilization of benefits.
“Only 20 to 30 percent of Arizona National Guard Service members actually apply to use federal tuition assistance,” said Rebecca Schlecht, education service specialist for the Arizona National Guard. “Most Service members don’t know about the tuition assistance program, are intimidated by the starting back to school process, or fail to meet critical deadlines to apply for TA benefits.”
First, members of the Arizona Army National Guard should activate their GoArmyEd Account. GoArmyEd is the virtual gateway for all eligible Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers to request TA online, anytime, anywhere for classroom and distance learning. This is the program that will track your TA usage and education progression.
Next, set up an appointment with an education service specialist at the education office. During the appointment, counselors will conduct an education benefit evaluation which includes tuition assistance, G.I. Bill, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA.
Although it can be accessed before the appointment, counselors will also walk Service members through the process of obtaining a Joint Service Transcript. The JST lists Service members training history and suggests equivalent college credits for that training.
Education counselors will also provide guidance on the differences between educational institutions such as two-year and four-year schools, regional and national accreditation, and online or traditional courses.
Armed with a new-found knowledge the next step is deciding where to attend. Many factors may influence this decision, but three very important issues should be addressed. First, is the school military friendly, and if so does it provide a special tuition rate for military personnel? Second, do they accept TA for tuition payment? Finally, will it accept JST credits toward a degree program?
This may not be a deal breaker but understanding how the school will process these items up front will save time and frustration in the future. There are many ways to search for military friendly schools but word of mouth can provide a real first person perspective when making this decision.
The enrollment process is different with each educational institution and deadlines vary. Some schools have application fees and some waive these fees for Service members. Depending on the degree program and course requirements, future students may have to take placement exams for subjects such as math. Making an appointment with the college’s enrollment advisor can help navigate the initial process and help meet the school’s deadlines for enrollment.
Once a school is selected, courses may be submitted for tuition assistance funding. This process must be completed 10 days prior to the start date of your classes but no earlier than 60 days before.
In GoArmyEd, a course schedule for the upcoming semester, and a course cost analysis for tuition only must be uploaded to the system. Upon completion of the first six credit hours a degree completion plan from the school is also required.
A Tuition Assistance request will have to be built requesting funding for the courses you plan to take. If the selected school has a letter of instruction with GoArmyEd then you simply search for the school name and select your courses. If the school is not included then your courses will have to be manually entered into GoArmyEd system.
TA requests will then be submitted and reviewed by your education counselor. The request will either be approved, or rejected with corrections or verifications needed. Once approved, the forms must be printed from GoArmyEd and provided to the school’s business office for billing.
In order to receive tuition assistance funding Soldiers must meet certain requirements. First, you must be actively serving in the National Guard and have graduated from your initial entry training for one year. Service members cannot be flagged for physical training failure, or height and weight. A minimum grade point average of a 2.0 is required for undergraduate degrees, and a 3.0 for graduate programs.
“Service members need to understand that tuition assistance only pays for tuition,” said Schlecht. “It does not pay for books, course or lab fees, or technology fees related to online courses.”
Other financial aid opportunities may be explored to cover financial gaps. Service members may opt to use the G.I. Bill or other federal financial aid such as grants or student loans.
Service members can apply for the G.I. Bill by filling out and following the instructions on VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits. Once a certificate of eligibility is provided simply print it and provided it to the school’s veteran affairs office, G.I. Bill representative or business office. Each Service member’s eligibility is different so it is important to understand what G.I. Bill is being used and how to maximize this benefit.
“Furthering your education can have a positive impact on both your civilian and military careers,” said Army 1st Lt. Steve Brown, Arizona National Guard state education officer. “Aside from the opportunities having a degree provides for you in the job market, enhancement of your military career includes promotion points, officer commissioning eligibility, and makes you more competitive for Active Guard Reserve and technician jobs.”
The state education office provides many services associated with personal development which include:
· College placement test preparation
· ASVAB retesting for reclassification
· Licensing and certification information
· Occupational skills assessment testing
· College transcript certification for military personnel file
For more information about starting a degree program or education benefits visit these resource centers:
Arizona National Guard State Education Office
5636 E. McDowell Rd. Bldg. M5710
Phoenix AZ 85008
GI Bill information
Joint Service Transcripts (JST)
Go Army Ed