Yes, you can just do the Cadet program and not take any tuition reimbursement. It’s just an extra opportunity as an ATP grad, but you don’t have to take it. I don’t recommend taking any benefits until
you’re sure it’s the regional for you. When you do decide though, why not take the tuition reimbursement to help financially ease the burden of the loan? I applied to four cadet programs, attended all the orientations and chose Skywest. I felt confident in my choice and started tuition reimbursement the following month. It was amazing. CFI pay is often not enough to cover expenses plus the loan and can be completely unpredictable from month to month. Tuition reimbursement was a game changer.
I’ve read that article as well. It’s interesting but I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s the projected business model for United. They have relied on the 50 seat CRJ200 from Skywest, the E145 from Commut Air and the CRJ 550 from GoJet as a work horse. If you’re applying to a regional with that airframe, you may eventually see route reductions slowly over time but nothing major overnight. Plus there are so many other airframes being flown at the regional level. The CRJ 700 is flown at PSA, Piedmont, Endeavor and Skywest. The CRJ 900 at Endeavor and Skywest. The E175 at Republic, Envoy and Skywest.
If I were in your shoes, I would look for the regional that will be the least effected. That means the size of the airline, the amount of contracts they have with the majors and the size and diversity of their fleet. So if the United 50 seater phase out happens more rapidly than anticipated, it still wouldn’t change the health of the company all that much.