The Military offers many educational benefits that service members can take advantage of during or after service. From financial aid and college funds to programs that convert military training into college credit, there have never been more ways for service members to further their education.
The rising cost of tuition can be hard to manage, but the Military’s Tuition Assistance Program provides service members the opportunity to enroll in courses at accredited colleges, universities, junior colleges and vocational-technical schools. Each Service has unique programs that can help with tuition for anything from professional certifications to a graduate degree. To qualify, there are usually conditional requirements – such as having a minimum time remaining on your service contract and a cap on credit hours (or dollars) per year. Some programs, such as the Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative, also require that you attend a school from a designated list.
Tuition Assistance pays for up to 100 percent of the cost of tuition or expenses, up to a maximum of $250 per credit and a personal maximum of $4,500 per fiscal year per student. This program is the same for full-time-duty members in all Military Services. Selected Reserve and National Guard units also offer Tuition Assistance Programs, although the benefits may vary from the Active Duty’s program.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill became effective on Aug. 1, 2009, and has the most comprehensive education benefits package since the original GI Bill was signed into law in 1944. Veterans who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, with at least 90 days of continuous service, are eligible. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also gives Reserve and Guard members who have been activated for more than 90 days since 9/11 access to the same benefits as their active-duty counterparts.
As of Aug. 1, 2011, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will now pay all public school in-state tuition and fees. The full benefit amount an individual can receive is calculated from these numbers:
- Tuition and fees payment (not to exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees in each state)
- Living stipend (equivalent to basic housing allowance in that ZIP code for an E-5 with dependents)
- Allowance for books and supplies ($1,000 per year)
The actual benefit amount will vary based on an individual’s total length of service. For example, those who have served at least 36 months or 30 continuous days prior to discharge for a service-connected disability can get maximum tuition and fees, a monthly housing stipend and an annual stipend for books and supplies. Those who have served at least 90 days, but less than six months, receive 40 percent of the maximum benefit. These benefits are payable for up to 15 years following a member’s honorable discharge or retirement from service.
Another aspect of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Yellow Ribbon Program. Colleges and universities that participate in this program contribute additional funds toward educational costs that exceed the maximums allowed by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Institutions may set the amount they wish to contribute, which is matched by Veterans Affairs. This can be very beneficial for students at private colleges and universities, graduate programs or those attending with out-of-state status.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also offers service members the ability to share educational benefits with family members. In exchange for an additional service commitment, a service member may be able to transfer all or part of his or her earned benefits to spouses and children (including stepchildren). This is a first for the GI Bill and opens up new opportunities for service members and their families.
For examples and maximum allowances state-by-state, visit the Veterans Affairs GI Bill site or speak with a recruiter.
College Fund Programs (also known as the GI Bill “kicker”) offer an additional amount of money that can be added to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. With the exception of the Navy and Air Force, each Service branch has College Fund Programs; however, the incentives and amount received vary with each branch. College Fund Programs are offered to service members when they first join the Military. Two mandatory qualifications are you must have a high school diploma and you must be enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Depending on your Service, test scores and occupation, there may also be additional requirements. Talk to a recruiter to find out if you are eligible and to ask for an application.
The Army and Navy offer loan repayment programs that help enlisted personnel pay off college loans accrued prior to service. While each program has unique processes and requirements, they’re all enlistment incentives designed to help recent college graduates manage education debt.
Army: In the full-time-duty Army, Soldiers can qualify to have their loans repaid by the Military at the rate of one-third of the loan for each year of full-time duty served (maximum loan repayment is $65,000). The Army even helps Soldiers pay off student loans they’ve taken out, provided they attended schools on approved Perkins, Stafford or other Department of Education guaranteed student loans.
Navy: In the full-time-duty Navy, a $65,000 Loan Repayment Program is also available. Qualifications include no prior military service, a high school diploma and a loan guaranteed under the Higher Education Act of 1965. If an individual does qualify, either of these programs is a great way to get out of debt!