Air Force Educational Leave of Absence

Find SchoolsThe Air Force Educational Leave of Absence (ELA or AFELA) program gives Air Force officers and enlisted personnel the opportunity to attend college full time for up to two years while remaining on active duty. If you are elegible, can help you find schools where you can use Air Force Educational Leave of Absence benefits.

How It Works

Officers or enlisted personnel can apply for an ELA with approval from their supervisor. Enlisted personnel must have completed their initial enlistment and reenlisted. Officers must have completed their initial period of obligated service based on their commissioning source.

ELA allows airmen to attend school full time for up to two years while they remain on active duty and continue to receive their base pay. In exchange, they agree to a two-for-one service commitment. For every one month on educational leave, they must extend their service commitment by two months.


  • You remain on active duty and continue to receive base pay, retain your medical benefits, accrue time in rank, and can still be promoted.

  • You continue to accumulate leave and are not charged leave for semester breaks.

  • You can continue to receive certain incentive pay, such as retention bonuses.


  • You are not allowed to receive allowances, such as Basic Allowance for Housing or Basic Allowance for Subsistence.

  • If you live on base, you will be charged rent during your time on ELA.

  • You cannot use Tuition Assistance while using ELA.


Follow these three steps to apply for ELA:

  1. Supervisor

    Get your supervisor’s consent.

  2. Base Education Center

    Go to your base education center, where a counselor will help guide you through the application paperwork.

  3. Signed Paperwork

    Get the paperwork signed by your organization’s leader.

JoeWarning: Officer Performance Reports

Officer Performance Reports (OPR) are still due while on ELA. Because they are not allowed to mention educational achievements, your Officer Performance Report could be blank. Therefore, this might hurt your career potential because those with solid Officer Performance Reports will advance quicker than you.

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Joe's Notes


ELA or AFELA was previously referred to as the Bootstrap Program.

Free membership. Free J-shirt.


ELA isn’t a commissioning program. Applying for Officer Training School is a separate process.


Usually, if your pay is taxed you can continue to receive it while on ELA. If it’s not taxed, odds are you won’t receive it.