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AU-ABC program expands enlisted education opportunities

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- Airmen join the Air Force for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most common is for the service’s vast educational opportunities.

The Air University-Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative program, or AU-ABC, is perhaps a little-known opportunity that can reap big rewards.

The AU-ABC was created to help enlisted Airmen pursue advanced education beyond the associate degrees they earn through the Community College of the Air Force. The program links CCAF graduates to accredited civilian academic institutions that offer online or distance learning bachelor’s degrees.

Since its inception in 2007, the AU-ABC program has helped more than 104,000 Airmen complete nearly 203,000 courses at civilian institutions, resulting in the completion of 4,396 bachelor’s degrees. Of those Airmen who earned their four-year degrees through the program, 94 have commissioned as officers in the Air Force.

"The AU-ABC program arguably provides our enlisted Airmen the most efficient path to earn a bachelor's degree. The Air Force is committed to helping Airmen maximize realization of their academic potential because educational advancement increases knowledge and enhances the critical thinking skills the Air Force needs to be successful," said Lt. Col. Nathan P. Sherman, CCAF commandant.

Currently, there are 59 higher education institutions that have partnered with the Air Force to provide 217 degree programs for Airmen. The program includes postsecondary schools with regional accreditation or accredited by the Distance Education and Accrediting Commission. Airmen can search the Air Force Virtual Education Center to see a list of the civilian institutions that have partnered with the Air Force to support this program.

One benefit of the AU-ABC program is that in most cases CCAF graduates are guaranteed to take no more than 60 semester hours in order to complete a bachelor’s degree by the civilian institution. Often, students can use tuition assistance, Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 benefits to help pay for the tuition costs.

The program provides the critical flexibility needed to fit into the busy-on-the-move lifestyle of today’s Airmen.

“I had moved multiple times and the schools never transferred all the credits. They always wanted me to start over or this class didn’t match theirs. Just having the benefit of guaranteeing at least 60 credit hours in those category 1 programs was a huge benefit,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Garrett in an interview earlier in 2017.

Garrett is a prior enlisted Airmen who took advantage of the program to receive his commission.

The program is open to enlisted active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen. If students are unable to complete the degree requirements before retirement or separation from the Air Force, they may continue in the program until completion.

Airmen who want to learn more about the AU-ABC program can go http://www.airuniversity.af.mil/Barnes/CCAF/.

Civilian academic institutions who want more information about the AU-ABC program or would like to become a partner can contact the program manager at ccaf.decm@us.af.mil.

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