The military, strict in structure, teaches discipline, focus, and strategy. In addition to the training the military itself provides, the military offers tuition assistance to veterans and those currently serving. Every branch of the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard) can provide up to 100 percent of tuition costs paid directly to a learning institution. However, each service has its own eligibility criteria.
Active Duty Military Education
Many military members choose to take advantage of tuition assistance to further their education either during their service or after discharge. Service members can access tuition assistance of up to $4,500 each year. While the GI Bill offers further funding, it is recommended not to use this funding until after service because it does not include a housing stipend.
The GI Bill is a collection of education programs including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD), the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), the Fry Scholarship, the Survivor’s and Dependent’s Educational Assistance program (DEA) and the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program. Current service members and veterans may be eligible for more than one education program and should thoroughly research each option.
Each military branch runs its own tuition assistance programs, college funds, and other means of funding outside of the GI Bill. Education Service Officers, Navy college counselors, and military recruiters can all provide information and help individuals make funding decisions.
How the GI Bill Works
To qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, one of the following must be true, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
- Served at least 90 days of active duty after September 11, 2001.
- Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorable discharged after any amount of service.
- Served for at least 30 continuous days on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability.
- Are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying Veteran or service member.
- To learn about qualifications based on National Guard and Reserve duty, click here.
Beneficiaries of the GI Bill can receive assistance for up to 36 months. Benefits include up to 100 percent of tuition and fees payments, a housing allowance (if you attend more than half time and are not on active duty), up to $1,000 for books and supplies each school year. Under some circumstances, the GI Bill even offers money to help relocate for school.
An individual’s length of service (after September 10, 2001) largely determines how much funding they will receive. The following schedule dictates the percent of tuition the bill covers based on how long you served.
- 100 percent, 36 or more total months
- 100 percent, 30 or more consecutive days with disability-related discharge.
- 90 percent, 30 total months
- 80 percent, 24 total months
- 70 percent, 18 total months
- 60 percent, 12 total months
- 50 percent, six total months
- 40 percent, 90 or more days
Other variables, such as the number of classes taken and attending a public versus private school, are also taken into consideration. In general, the GI Bill covers 36 months of full-time schooling. If an individual ended their service on or after January 1, 2013, the GI Bill benefits do not expire. However, anyone whose duty completed prior to that date has 15 years after discharge to use their benefits.
Other Education Benefits
It’s not just the federal government that wants to assist servicemen and women with education assistance. Many private organizations and educational institutions also offer military grants that can be used in conjunction with the GI Bill.
For example, in 2004, the Imagine America Foundation created the Imagine America Military Award Program (MAP). MAP helps military service members receive career education and make the transition from the military to civilian life. The $1,000 award is available to active-duty, reservist, honorably discharged or retired veterans of a U.S. military service branch.
Some online universities offer military education grants or discounts on tuition based on the degree. For example, you might see better grant rates for associates to masters programs, whereas doctoral might be lower due to the low number of accepted students.
You Deserve This
Not only is military service in and of itself an honorable career, but it also can serve as a great launching pad into a career in national security, law enforcement, or private sector industry. Military servicemen and women have genuinely earned these education opportunities, and they are there for the taking.
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