JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
When looking in from the outside, service members of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska Naval Militia lead complex lives. With the frequent obligations of military service coupled with the responsibilities of a civilian career it may seem to leave time for little else. However, whether working towards a promotion or self-development, there are Guardsmen and Sailors seeking higher education, and the Alaska National Guard and University of Alaska are here to support.
The Alaska National Guard and University of Alaska partner in providing financial assistance for service members pursuing a college education. The financial assistance can be rendered by two methods – a tuition scholarship or tuition reimbursement.
The Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors of the Guard and Alaska Naval Militia can apply for the tuition scholarship to attend, online or in person, any of the UA campuses throughout the state. These include the University of Alaska Anchorage and its four community campuses, the University of Fairbanks, the Chukchi Campus, the Kuskokwim Campus, the Interior Alaska Campus, and the Northwest Campus.
The start of the semester marks the first year the applicants can expect an increase in the maximum credits earned each fiscal year. Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general for the Alaska National Guard, signed a memorandum raising the cap for covered semester hours from 12 to 18 hours.
This fall, 68 Army Guardsmen, Air Guardsmen and Naval Militia Sailors will attend college classes using the tuition scholarship program, a notable increase from last semester’s 40 applicants.
The scholarship, covering only tuition, was designed with consideration towards a service member’s various responsibilities of maintaining a military and civilian career. Service members can earn 12 undergraduate credits before submitting a degree plan. Each applicant can earn their degree at their pace and need only apply within 90 days of the upcoming semester.
“There is no ‘rate of pursuit’ for the scholarship,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lina Chausse, education service officer for the AKNG.
Chausse advises and guides applicants through the scholarship program and can often be seen at AKNG career fairs, speaking to rooms full of soldiers or drafting all-call emails. She said informing Soldiers and Airmen of the tuition scholarship program is often all that is needed for them to take advantage of it.
“Guardsmen want to work on their career and self-development,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity that’s just there for them to use once they set their sights on it.”
To be eligible, Guardsmen and Sailors must have a service record clear of unauthorized absences or “red flags” for at least a year and the support of their commander.
“If they’re applying for this benefit it’s usually easy to tell how serious they are in using and keeping it," Chausse said. “They have already invested in their service and are ready for the next step.”
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ronie Marc Salvador, a Sailor with four years in the Alaska Naval Militia, took that “next step” three years ago and has since earned his bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.
“As the tuition assistance counselor for the naval militia and as someone who has seen the program through, I strongly advocate that service members use it for their education goals,” Salvador said.
Recalling his first application process with the scholarship program, he said that the full scope of what was offered wasn’t exactly common knowledge.
“People are generally aware of tuition assistance, but they need to know how accessible it can be,” he said “It’s important for service members to have financial assistance and see that the organization is supporting them in achieving their educational and personal goals.”
Alaska National Guardsmen interested in applying for, or learning about, the AKNG’s and UAA’s tuition scholarship program may contact Sgt. 1st Class Lina Chausse at 907-428-6477 or email@example.com