WASHINGTON -- Soldiers will no longer have to wait one year after completing their Advanced Individual Training to receive tuition assistance.

Soon, tuition assistance will be available immediately for Soldiers of all components after AIT. This assumes they meet existing eligibility requirements and have no flags like disciplinary problems or failure of the Army Physical Fitness Test, according to Pamela Raymer, chief, Army Continuing Education System, Human Resources Command.

Officers who have completed the Basic Officer Leaders Course and warrant officers who have graduated from the Warrant Officer Basic Course will immediately be eligible for tuition assistance as well, she added.

The second part of the change is that Soldiers who wish to pursue a master's degree will no longer have to wait 10 years in order to apply for tuition assistance funding, Raymer said.

Instead, enlisted Soldiers who have successfully completed the Advanced Leader Course, warrant officers who have graduated from the Warrant Officer Advanced Course and officers who have graduated from the Captains Career Course or equivalent will immediately be eligible, irrespective of component, she said.

This policy change takes effect Aug. 5, according to Army Directive 2018-09 (Army Tuition Assistance Policy) of June 6, 2018. The directive was signed by Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper.

All other existing tuition assistance policy, such as Soldiers being able to take up to 16 semester hours each fiscal year at the rate of $250 per semester hour, remains the same, Raymer said.

Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of Soldiers in all components use tuition assistance, she said.

"We're hoping this new policy will encourage more Soldiers to sign up for tuition assistance, as this will help them professionally when they're in the Army and increase their employability when they separate," Raymer added.

Raymer suggested that Soldiers in an active duty status might want to use tuition assistance and save their GI Bill for when they leave the service because it includes a housing stipend that could benefit them. Also, they might want to pass along that benefit to a family member if they so choose.

Soldiers should contact their installation education office for more details.