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Paying for a better future

Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist apprentice, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017. A higher education can be achieved with little to no cost by utilizing the services offered through the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)

Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist apprentice, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 10, 2017. A higher education can be achieved with little to no cost by utilizing the services offered through the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)


The Air Force takes care of their people. That’s how it has always been, so that’s how it will always be.

Airmen, Department of Defense civilians and dependents who seek a higher education have the capabilities and resources to not have to pay a dime for a better future. Those stationed at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., have the Education Center personnel to help them out.

Ron Filkins, 5th Force Support Squadron base training and education section chief, informs how to pay for a higher education.

GI Bill:

The term GI Bill refers to any Department of Veteran Affairs education benefit earned by active duty, selected reserve and National Guard armed forces personnel and their families.

There are currently two types available for active duty personnel: the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits for service members who have served on active duty for at least 90 days since Sept. 10, 2001. It can pay full tuition and fees at school, provide a monthly housing allowance and give up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies.

The Montgomery GI Bill helps service members meet their education and training costs with monthly benefit payments. The value of this GI Bill is based on the current maximum monthly payment rate multiplied by the 36-month limit. The payment rate automatically adjusts every year for inflation on the first day of the fiscal year (Oct. 1).

The 36-month limit refers to academic months to ensure that everybody with this benefit will have up to 8 semesters (four years) of traditional academic education.

For more information or to view eligibility on the Post-9/11 or Montgomery GI Bill, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website at http://benefits.va.gov/gibill/.

Tuition Assistance:

Tuition assistance is a military program that provides money for tuition and fees for courses taken by active duty personnel.

The Air Force will pay for up to 124 semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree and 142 for a master’s degree through tuition assistance. Tuition assistance is also limited to $166 per quarter credit hour, $250 per semester credit hour and $4500 per fiscal year.

Tuition assistance can’t be used until an Airman has gone through a briefing, and must be started within a year of the briefing. If not used, the Airman must go through the briefing again.

“We try to get them to use all their TA while they’re in,” said Filkins. “It’s there, so why not use it? Once you max out, you can start using your GI Bill if you have to.”

There are only a few things that tuition assistance won’t cover, including apprenticeships.

Financial Aid:

Filkins also recommends applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at www.fafsa.org.

“Anybody can go online and fill that out,” said Filkins. “They will send you a report with everything you’re eligible for.”

The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion a year in grants, work-study funds and low-interest loans.

  • Grants are financial aid that don’t have to be repaid

  • Loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest

  • Work-study funds are awarded to people through labor to assist with school.


Scholarships can be found in many different places, including Balfour Beatty Community, Minot AFB clubs, DECA, www.fafsa.org and www.studentaid.gov, Filkins said.

“The biggest thing we try to convince people of is to take the time to apply for them,” said Filkins. “Worse thing that’s going to happen is they’re going to say you don’t qualify. The best thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to get more money for school.”

While in search for scholarships, there are some sites that are free and some that cost money. Avoid the websites that have a fee to do a scholarship search.

“You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship,” said Filkins.

Advice from the Education Center:

  • Don’t be anxious to visit the education center! They are here to help.

  • Choose classes that you will enjoy, not those that are chosen by friends or family.

  • Avoid choosing the first and only school that you’ve looked in to.

  • Compare schools based on needs and wants to find the school that’s perfect for you.

  • Research available careers and required degrees in your next duty location in case you leave the service and decide to stay in that area.

  • Try an interest assessment and aptitude test if unsure of what you want to do in the future. There may be something you’re interested in but never thought of since joining the service

  • Use tuition assistance while active duty before falling back on a GI Bill.

  • Always apply for scholarships.

  • Never pay to search or receive a scholarship.

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