Jon Placak, 5th Force Support Squadron education specialist discusses financial aid with Staff Sgt. Latoya Gantt, 5th FSS noncommissioned officer in charge of formal training, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Nov. 13. Gantt is currently pursuing a degree in marketing and management. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan)
Jon Placak, 5th Force Support Squadron education specialist, enters financial aid information into his computer at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Nov. 13. Placak works in the base education office and advises Airmen on financial aid and courses needed to obtain their Community College of the Air Force degree. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan)
by Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
11/26/2013 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Central Michigan University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Minot State University, Park University and the Minot Air Force Base Education office staff observed American Education Week at Minot AFB, N.D., Nov. 18-22.
American Education Week began as a joint effort between the National Education Association and the American Legion after World War I as a way to strengthen education in the nation, said Carey Williams, ERAU campus director here.
The week of activities began with an open house on Monday, which offered Airmen, and their guests, cupcakes, cookies and hot apple cider. A free pizza lunch was hosted Nov. 20 and the event wrapped up Nov. 22 with a drawing for prizes, such as sweatshirts and T-shirts.
Throughout the week, Airmen had the opportunity to visit with school representatives and register for the Spring I term classes, which begin in January. In addition, counselors were able to better explain the importance of seeking an education while in the Air Force and the process for obtaining a Combined Community College of the Air Force degree, whether it be for their specific Air Force Specialty Code or not.
The CCAF is an important tool to have whether a member decides to stay in for 20 years or return to the civilian work force, said Jon Placak, 5th FSS education specialist.
"I try to let people know that they don't have to pursue a degree in their AFSC," said Placak. "Once you complete your CCAF, nothing is stopping you from pursuing a degree in the field of your choosing. Just because you're an aircraft maintainer doesn't mean you can't be going to college for psychology."
"We've been getting calls from people applying to work who need proof of their CCAF," said Placak. "It definitely gives them a competitive edge when it comes to getting their foot in the door."
Depending on their career field, most Airmen are able to get their CCAF degree in as little as twelve classes, stated Brigitte Mikula, MSU campus director.
"They already have many of the necessary credits from Basic Military training and technical training," said Mikula.
In the last five years MSU has become a national test center on base for electronic testing and offers a variety of College Level Examination Program tests including the five general education credit courses required to obtain a CCAF degree. Those courses are speech, English composition, math, social science and humanities. The education center here offers a variety of CLEP tests, which can amount to approximately $750 in savings per course.
"While a CCAF degree is not mandatory for promotion to senior enlisted ranks, it is required for senior rater endorsement," said Jerome Williams, 5th Force Support Squadron chief of education and training.
Senior rater endorsements are more crucial than ever for promotion nowadays.
It is important for Airmen to seek out their CCAF degree not only to help them promote but also to better prepare them for fulfilling leadership roles, explained Williams.
With the changing job market, competition for high paying positions within the workforce will only increase, said Williams. Having a degree, like the CCAF, will give Airmen an edge against the competition should they choose to separate from the Air Force.
At any given time throughout the year, approximately 33 percent of base personnel, including dependents, attend university classes offered at the education center. This includes both in residence and online courses.
Barbara Larrison, Park University campus director, also explained that for Airmen at Minot AFB who work odd shifts or deploy to the missile field, the education center also offers educational opportunities to fit their schedule.
Airmen are able to work with squadron leadership and university representatives to create learning groups to meet to fulfill class requirements that fit their schedules.
"It's important for people to know that we offer a variety of class types from in residence teaching, to online and even small squadron centric classes when we have a large enough group interested in attending," stated Larrison.
All classes offered to military members are offered to their dependents as well, said Larrison. In many cases, dependents are offered the class at the same rate as military personnel.
There are certain stipulations for who can and can't qualify for Tuition Assistance.
Military members who currently have a referral enlisted performance report, have a failing physical fitness test score, find themselves on a control roster, or have an unfavorable information file are ineligible for TA's $4,500 of financial aid each year.
In order to continue to receive financial aid, students must meet minimum standards when it comes to grade point averages.
Current TA guidelines stipulate that members must maintain a 2.0 grade point average after completion of fifteen semester hours when seeking an undergraduate degree and a 3.0 GPA after completion of nine semester hours when seeking a graduate degree. If the member fails to maintain their GPA their tuition assistance can be revoked and they become ineligible for further financial assistance through TA.
For more information about educational opportunities at Minot AFB or TA, contact the Base Education Office at 723-2772.