Enlisting in the military requires a great deal of sacrifice. But as a benefit, the government offers military aid to those who wish to attend school before, during and after their service. Military student aid, such as the Montgomery GI Bill, is one of the many reasons people enlist in the armed forces.
Montgomery G.I. Bill
Under the Montgomery GI Bill, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard (and their Reserves and the National Guard) provide a cash education incentive to encourage you to join and serve a tour of duty. The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) provides up to 36 months of education benefits to eligible veterans for college, business, technical or vocational courses, correspondence courses, apprenticeship/job training and flight training. MGIB benefits may be used while on active duty or after a fully honorable discharge from active duty.
The Montgomery GI Bill benefit amounts are adjusted each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Find current education benefit rates on the US Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill web page.
To qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill, recruits must agree to have $100 deducted from their pay each month. Currently, only 57% of soldiers making these payments eventually use their GI Bill benefits.
In addition to the MGIB, there may be additional funds available from the College Fund and Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) “kicker”. If you are receiving Tuition Assistance (TA) from your branch of service, you may be eligible to use MGIB to supplement or “top up” your tuition assistance. Benefits end 10 years from the date of your last discharge or release from active duty. You may be able to transfer your MGIB entitlement to basic educational assistance to one or more of your dependents, including your spouse and/or children. To apply, file VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits. For more information, call 1-888-GIBILL-1 (1-888-442-4551) or visit the GI Bill Education Benefits web site.
Tuition Assistance (TA)
The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) Program allows enlisted service members and offers to enroll in courses at accredited colleges, universities, junior colleges, high schools, and vocational-technical schools. Tuition Assistance will pay up to 100% of the cost of the course and up to 100% of the cost of obtaining a high school degree, with a limit of $250 per credit hour and an aggregate annual limit of $4,500. MGIB benefits may be used to “top up” Tuition Assistance benefits, paying the difference between tuition and the Tuition Assistance benefits. Military.com provides a good overview of the tuition assistance program.
Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Corps College Funds
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps each provide tuition assistance (a “kicker”) in addition to what you earn through the Montgomery GI Bill. Each service controls the amount of extra money it provides. The Army fund increases the amount of support to as much as $70,000, the Navy fund increases the amount of support to as much as $50,000 and the Marine Corps fund increases the amount of support to as much as $30,000. College Funds are awarded on a competitive basis according to academic merit (i.e., scoring in the top half of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). To qualify one must also agree to serve six years.
Community College of the Air Force
The Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) is a two-year college open only to enlisted men and women. It offers a variety of programs leading to an Associate’s Degree, in more than 70 scientific and technical fields. The Air Force pays for up to 100% of the cost of the college courses through its Tuition Assistance Program.
Service Members Opportunity Colleges (SOC)
SOC is a consortium of more than 1550 colleges and universities that provide educational opportunities for service members and their families. It is co-sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and managed for the DoD by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). Course work can be done on campus, at military installations and armories, and at a distance by computer or correspondence. Associate, bachelor, and graduate-level degree programs are available. Special curriculum areas include SOCAD (Army), SOCNAV (Navy), SOCMAR (Marines), and SOCGuard (Army National Guard). In addition, SOC operates ConAP (Concurrent Admissions Program) to increase college enrollment of Army enlistees (Army and Army Reserves). ConAP allows you to enlist in the Army at the same time as you apply for college. DANTES also operates its own Distance Learning Program.