Tuition Assistance for the Military

By Celeste Stewart

Active duty military service members, veterans and their dependents have options when it comes to paying for a higher education. Military education benefits take several forms under the GI Bill. With multiple tuition assistance programs available, the government helps some service members, veterans and their families succeed academically.

The GI Bill

Signed into law in June 1944 as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, the GI Bill originally offered service members college scholarships regardless of whether they served on the frontlines or not. In the decades since, the GI Bill has been revised. According to (1), the term GI Bill is used to describe any Department of Veterans Affairs education benefit offered to members of Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces and their families. Among the more common GI Bill variations are the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill and GI Bill 2.0 which improves on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

  • The Montgomery GI Bill comes in two flavors: Active Duty and Special Reserve. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty provides up to 36 months of military educational benefits after two years of continuous enlistment (2) while the Montgomery GI Bill Special Reserve requires a six year commitment(3)
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill grants up to 36 months of tuition assistance to veterans and service members with 90 or more days of active duty since September 10, 2001. It also extended benefits to National Guard and Reserve members as well as added an option to share military education benefits with immediate family members(4).
  • The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, or GI Bill 2.0, recently went into effect. Among other things, this act adds certain benefits for apprenticeships, on-the-job training and non-college degree programs (5).

While generous, programs under the GI Bill do have limits. For example, the GI Bill has specific maximum charges per unit and maximum total fees per term for each state (6). In addition, the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves each have their own forms of Armed Forces Tuition Assistance with their own eligibility requirements and restrictions (7).

Beyond Tuition Assistance

Some colleges and universities participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, an enhancement program under the GI Bill that helps students pay tuition and fees above the GI Bill’s limits. To qualify for these additional military education benefits, the school must participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program and the student must meet specific criteria (8).

In addition to the Yellow Ribbon Program, the “Top-Up” program allows eligible GI Bill recipients to use GI Bill benefits to supplement tuition and fees not covered by tuition assistance (9).

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program, or VEAP, is an optional tuition assistance program that matches service members’ contributions on a $2 to $1 basis. The benefit amount varies based on the contributions made, and members must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate. If the funds are not used within 10 years from release of duty, the service member’s portion of the remaining funds will be refunded (10).

The Reserve Education Assistance Program

The Reserve Education Assistance Program, or REAP, is a military education benefit for members of the Reserves called to active duty in response to a war or national emergency (10). It’s important to note that this tuition assistance program cannot be used in conjunction with other VA educational benefits (11).

Military Education Benefits for Military Dependents

Depending on if a service member has any GI Bill benefits left, those remaining military education benefits can be transferred to immediate family members. However, the service member must meet specific criteria such as having already served six years with an obligation of serving four or more in the future (12).

The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program is another tuition assistance program for spouses. Up to $4,000 of tuition assistance is available to military spouses who are pursuing degrees, credentials or licenses leading to employment in portable career fields (13).

Another program, Survivors & Dependents Assistance, is available to surviving sons, daughters and spouses of deceased or disabled veterans whose deaths or injuries meet specific criteria. This program has strict requirements and offers up to 45 months of educational benefits (14).

Getting Help with Military Tuition Assistance

The U.S. government can offer generous tuition assistance to those who qualify. However, with multiple programs, eligibility requirements and benefits, it’s not easy knowing which GI Bill program is right for you. Help is available from the Department of Veterans Affairs, your base’s Education Services Officer and college enrollment advisors (15) (10).

Works Cited

  1. Learn to Use Your GI Bill Benefits. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  2. Montgomery GI Bill. GIBill.VA.gove. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  3. Montgomery GI Bill. GIBill.VA.gove. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  4. The Post-9/11 GI Bill. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  5. Countdown to G.I. Bill 2.0. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  6. 2010-2011 Maximum In-State Tuition & Fees for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  7. Tuition Assistance (TA) Overview. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  8. Benefits of the Yellow Ribbon Program. GIBILL.VA.gove. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  9. Tuition Top Up Program. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  10. Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  11. Reserve Educational Assistance (REAP). [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  12. Transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits to Dependents (TEB). [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  13. Military Spouse and Family Educational Assistance Programs. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  14. Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA). [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]
  15. Veteran GI Bill User’s Guide. [Online] [Cited: September 27, 2011.]

* is not affiliated with the armed services or any government entity

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