There are around 1.3 million active-duty service members and more than 800,000 reservist’s in the U.S. armed forces. There are many reasons that people sign up to serve our country ranging from a call to serve to a desire to travel and experience the world.
For some, that reason is the education benefits that come with serving in the U.S. military. Unfortunately, many of those who join fail to take full advantage of the benefits offered to them. In most of these cases, that’s simply because they don’t understand what benefits they are eligible for.
Keep reading as we look at some of the best ways to earn an education while serving in the US military by taking advantage of education benefits for service members.
Military Education Benefits
The U.S. spares no expense when it comes to supporting its military veterans. That means that those who are currently serving or have served in the armed forces are awarded some pretty great benefits, especially when it comes to education.
Veterans have access to some of the best education benefits in the United States. There are a variety of different programs designed for both those who are currently serving and those who were honorably discharged.
This ensures that veterans and service members at all stages of life can reap the education benefits the military has to offer.
Education in the Military
When you join a branch of the military, you’ll receive some education through the military itself. The first thing you’ll do is go through basic training.
After basic, you’ll go to a more specialized location where you’ll learn your specific military job. This is often referred to as tech school.
Here you’ll learn advanced skills and go through technical training. Depending on what branch you’re in, some tech school courses can be applied for college credit.
If you’re looking to advance your military career or are interested in staying in the military, consider going through professional military training, or PME. PME is continuing education and advanced training to help service members get ahead in the military. Each branch has its own leadership schools and some of them can award advanced degrees.
Military bases even offer free classes to foster personal and professional development.
While the military is a great place to build a career, if you’re looking to rejoin the civilian world after your service ends, there’s something for you as well.
The focus of this article is on the advanced education benefits that come with service in the armed forces, so let’s dive right in. There are a number of programs and opportunities for current and former service members to earn a college degree with help from the military.
Military Tuition Assistance
Many service members and reservists join the military so that they can take classes and earn a degree while they serve their term.
You can even take courses while on active duty. Each branch of the military — the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps — all have their own form of a military tuition assistance program.
Each branch offers similar benefits, though it’s important to note that each program will have its own criteria for eligibility, the application process, and restrictions. Here’s a breakdown of the eligibility criteria per branch:
- Marine Corps – active-duty only
- Navy – active duty and reserves in active duty status
- Air Force – active duty and reserves
- Army Tuition – active duty, reserves, and ARNG on active duty
- Coast Guard – active duty and reserves in active duty status
You can also use this funding to cover the cost of college-related exams like the GRE, SAT, ACT, and GMAT. You can also use it to pay for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) to test out of classes.
Limitations of Tuition Assistance
As always, it’s important to read the fine print. Here are some noteworthy limitations to military tuition assistance:
- You must keep a GPA of at least 2.0 for undergraduate classes and 3.0 for graduate classes
- You can only earn one of each degree type. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can’t use this funding to earn another one or an associates degree, but you can use it to earn a master’s degree
- If you fail a course, you’ll have to reimburse your branch for the assistance they provided you
- The timeframe to apply for assistance is 45-7 days before classes begin
Of course, you can’t use tuition assistance to repay student loans and loans will not be forgiven through this program.
Tuition Assistance covers tuition, but doesn’t cover other college expenses such as books, technology fees, etc. 100% of tuition is covered with the following limits:
- $4,500 per fiscal year ($2,250 per fiscal year for the Coast Guard)
- $250 per semester hour (maximum of 16 hours per year for Army)
- $166 per quarter hour
It’s also important to note that each branch has a limited amount of funding for each fiscal year. These funds are often distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
It’s possible that tuition assistance funds could run out during the year, so you should schedule classes early to take advantage of these benefits and have a backup plan in place as the fiscal year goes on.
The G.I. Bill
When most people think of military education benefits, they think of the G.I. Bill. The truth is, there are several variations of the G.I. Bill. Overall, the program is designed to provide education assistance to current and former military personnel.
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)
This G.I. Bill provides benefits for education to active service members for up to ten years after you last leave active duty.
You are given the opportunity to buy into the program during basic training for $1,200. Then, you will receive a monthly stipend while attending classes at a school that qualifies.
The payments are sent directly to you. You can use the money for tuition and any school-related fees. Obviously, you’ll get more if you are attending full time and less if you are only attending part-time. If you want to know exactly what you’re eligible for each month, contact the Veterans Affairs office for the details.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
This version of the bill is designed for veterans and active-duty personnel who have served for at least 30 days since 9/10/01.
This program has a tiered eligibility percentage and is based on how long you’ve served. Your benefit can range from 40-100 percent of the maximum benefit amount.
You can use the funds to pay for any tuition and fees at an in-state college. Depending on the location of your school, you may also get a monthly housing allowance.
Unless you qualify for the Forever G.I. Bill, your benefits will expire 15 years after you leave the service. Your benefits may be eligible to transfer to your dependents if you agree to serve four additional years in the military.
Forever GI Bill
This Bill is also known as the Harry W Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act. It was created to provide additional benefits to people in the service, veterans, their families, and survivors.
This bill eliminates the 15-year expiration date on benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for certain servicemembers.
Reserve G.I. Bill
This Bill is also called the Montgomery G.I. Bill-Selected Reserve. With this program, members of Selected Reserves of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard can receive education benefits for up to 36 months.
To be eligible for this program, you have to have signed a 6-year contract after 6/30/1985 and completed Initial Active Duty for Training (IADT).
You also need a high school diploma or GED, as well as being in good standing in your drilling Selected Reserve unit. If you meet these qualifications, you’ll receive a monthly reimbursement.
Other Education Benefits
Military Tuition Assistance and The G.I. Bill are the most common education benefits awarded to members of our military. However, there are other forms of assistance out there.
There are many grants and scholarships for veterans and their families and there are even tuition assistance programs for spouses. There are also vocational training programs to help veterans and service members find and keep jobs as well as other tuition matching programs available based on funding.
If you are interested in joining the military or have already served and want to take advantage of education benefits, it’s important to find a school that can work with you.
Contact us today to learn more about how we help members of our U.S. military advance their education.