Centralized military tuition assistance office enables base-level counselors to focus on student Airmen

Centralized military tuition assistance office enables base-level counselors to focus on student Airmen

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Formerly an Air Education and Training Command function, the Air Force Personnel Center Military Tuition Assistance Central Office stood up under AFPC last fall. Centralized when resource management reductions required all services to streamline processes, the central office pays academic institutions, authorizes refunds, initiates reimbursements, addresses waiver requests and more.

Accomplishing thousands of transactional processes that previously were accomplished by base-level education centers relieves base-level offices of most administrative burdens and enables them to focus on serving Airmen as they pursue their education.

The central office team doesn’t simply accomplish the transactional work, though. In addition, staff members work together to develop more efficient, effective methods, improving the overall program for Airmen and counselors alike.

“For most service members and academic institutions, the transition from AETC to AFPC was seamless. The office was in full operation within minutes of arriving in their new offices with no break in operations,” said Todd Usnik, MilTA Central Office chief.

Processes such as education counseling, degree program review and tuition assistance approval remain at base-level education centers, where education counselors are now better able to support Airmen’s needs because they aren’t burdened with transactional work, he explained.

The MilTA Central Office includes four sections — policy, budget, invoicing and reimbursement — that work with Air Force financial management agencies, more than 1,000 academic institutions and senior leaders to ensure that the MilTA process runs smoothly.

In fiscal year 2014, the central office processed 138,000 transactions and paid more than $173 million in tuition assistance bills for Airmen.

“Airmen work at the local level to apply for and get their tuition assistance,” Usnik said. “Then our shop takes over. Our team pays invoices for classes, processes changes, corrections, refunds, reimbursements and waivers, and advises on additional processes. The efficiencies we’ve found or created are working because we have a small operation in which all elements — invoices, recoupment, budget, and policy — work closely together.”

Because one office processes all transactions of a specific type, section members are intimately familiar with the process and are able to build in efficiencies, Usnik explained.

Anticipating further incremental improvements over time, Usnik explained that continuous process improvement is the team’s goal.

The process is based on use of the self-sustaining Air Force Automated Education Management System platform, which allows students to submit tuition assistance requests electronically. The system also automatically notifies students and supervisors if there are actions pending — such as missing grades — and communicates with schools to enable them to invoice the government. 

Tuition assistance is available to service members who are serving on active duty, if they satisfy management requirements and are approved by their chain of command, Usnik said.

Airmen planning to attend college should first discuss their interest with their supervisor, and then make an appointment with their local education office. There, they will meet with an education counselor to discuss off-duty education, and if approved, the counselor will estimate their eligibility for using tuition assistance.

For more information about personnel programs, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one at www.retirees.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120510-068.pdf.

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