Fourteen states will participate in a pilot program to begin providing tuition assistance to members of their state’s Air National Guard.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced the program earlier this month. Hoeven has pushed to bring Guard educational benefits on par with those provided to active-component troops.
The Air National Guard Federal Military Tuition Assistance Beta Test will allow drill-status Guardsmen the opportunity to pursue funded off-duty educational opportunities, according to the National Guard Bureau.
The pilot program will run for three years, with tuition assistance capped at $4,500 annually per airman.
The program will include 24 wings in 14 states and territories, to include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Guam, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
Officials expect the program to begin on Oct. 1, 2020. It is designed to match a program already in place for the Army Guard. The Senate version of the 2020 Defense Appropriations Bill includes $10.8 million to support the effort.
“Tuition assistance is a critical part of the benefits we provide to active duty military personnel, and it should be provided to the members of our Guard as well,” Hoeven said. “I’ve been working hard to establish an Air National Guard benefit program and I’m very pleased that North Dakota will be included in the initial states of the new program.”
Hoeven said he is continuing to push for benefits parity between the members of the two components. One continuing gap are rules governing the concurrent use of GI Bill benefits and federal tuition assistance. Currently, active-component members may use both at the same time, Guardsmen and Reservists may not.
Last month, Hoeven and a group of 12 other senators wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging him to restore full education benefits.
“The brave men and women who serve in our Armed Forces choose to serve for a number of reasons and make many sacrifices in the defense of our country,” the senators wrote. “The benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill and DoD-funded [tuition assistance] are valuable incentives that can help the reserve components meet their recruiting and retention goals by providing financial means for service members to obtain a college degree.”