What are Military Education and Tuition Assistance Benefits?
As a member of the U.S. Military, one of the advantages of serving is the wide range of education benefits available to you, your spouse, and dependent family members. Many of the education benefits apply to service members still in uniform, and others are also available after you transition to the civilian world, such as the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Veterans Assistance Program (VEAP), and Veterans Upward Bound (VUP).
Military education benefits come in the form of various programs. Some are meant for you to use during your off-time by attending campus-based courses or through an online education program. Other programs, such as DANTES, help you earn credits for your military training that you can also transfer to a college and earn your degree faster. Other education benefit programs are meant for you to use as a veteran. Another group of programs are designed to help your spouse, or adult-age dependents, get their degrees even as the family re-stations every few years.
Major military education benefits and tuition assistance programs include:
- Post 9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill Buy-Up Program
- Veterans Educational Assistance (VEAP)
- Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
- Veterans Upward Bound Program (VUB)
- Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program
What are Specific Education and Tuition Assistance Benefits by Branch?
Each service branch has its own education benefits programs. While many of the programs among the branches are similar, others are unique to a specific branch. Below is a guide to the education benefits offered by each branch:
U.S Army Tuition Assistance
The Army values education and they know how disrupting relocation can be to a military family trying to further its education. As a result, the Army created several programs making it easier to get an education, pay off existing education loans, and secure tuition assistance. The Army programs are:
- College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP). CLRP pays up to $65,000 in college loans in return for a three-year active duty enlistment. This can be a real boost to a military family's budget by reducing or eliminating this future expense. Soldiers who enlist for a six-year period can receive up to $40,000 in benefits.
- SOCAD. The Service members Opportunity College's Army Degree (SOCAD) is a network of 1,800 accredited colleges providing spouses and college-aged children degree programs regardless of stationing. As long as courses are taken within the SOCAD network, the credits transfer, without further evaluation, towards a degree.
- Dependent Children Scholarships. Administered by the Army Emergency Relief (AER), the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program provides money to help pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, or room and board for dependent children attending college.
- Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP). Need-based in nature, OSEAP provides military spouses stationed overseas, financial assistance, including tuition assistance (up to half of tuition), so they may advance their education and open up more occupational opportunities. The per-term limit is $580 with a yearly cap of $2900.
- Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP). Similar to OSEAP, SSEAP is for state-side active duty or retired spouses, or widow(ers) of active duty or retired soldiers. Its purpose is the same as OSEAP's--to expand spouses' occupational opportunities through better education.
- Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Part of the Army Continuing Education Program, TAP provides 100 percent tuition assistance and fees payment, up to $250 per credit hour, for soldiers wishing to advance their education during their off-duty time.
U.S. Air Force Tuition Assistance
Like the other branches of the military, the U.S. Air Force needs better educated personnel and officers to operate and maintain the new high-tech systems. The U.S. Air Force created a set of educational benefits for their service members and families. In addition the Air Force Aid Society, the official charity of the Air Force, offers a number of military education benefits.
- Tuition Assistance Program. Similar in payment to the Army's program, the Air Force tuition assistance program is the most popular reason why airmen enlist or re-enlist. As college tuition costs keep rising, the tuition assistance program provides the financial aid to those wishing to attend college, but who would otherwise not be able to afford it, in return for enlisting.
- College Loan Repayment Program. If you enlist, and have college loans, the Air Force may repay up to $10,000 of your loans during your enlistment.
- General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program. For dependent family members and spouses, the Air Force Aid Society awards a number of $2,000 grants each year for undergraduate study.
- General George S. Brown Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP). STAP is different from other programs in that it pays up to 50 percent of unmet tuition charges after other sources, such as grants and scholarships, pay first. The annual cap per spouse is $1,500.
- The Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). The CCAF partners with 82 Education Service Offices worldwide, 90 affiliated Air Force schools, and more than 1,500 civilian academic institutions. In turn, the CCAF serves more than 320,000 guard, reserve enlisted, and active duty personnel.
U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Tuition Assistance
While many of the programs apply to both services, some are branch specific:
- Tuition Assistance Program. The tuition assistance program pays up to $250 per credit for sailors or Marines wishing to take campus-resident or online education classes during their off-duty time.
- Loan Repayment Program. If this is your first enlistment in the Navy, the Navy offers an educational benefit that repays up to $65,000 of your education student loans. The only requirement is the loans cannot be in default. On the other hand, the Marines are trying out their own version of a loan repayment program by offering new officers up to $30,000 in student loan repayment, if they extend beyond their current obligation.
- SOCMAR and SOCNAV. As part of the Service members Opportunity College (SOC), SOCMAR and SOCNAV offer mobile sailor and Marine families the opportunity to complete a degree through the SOC network and not lose credits due to transferring.
- Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Loan Program. The Travers Program provides from $500 up to $2,000 interest-free loans for state-side spouses and dependent children of sailors and Marines.
- Admiral Mike Boorda Seaman to Admiral Program. The Boorda Program, while similar in payment to the Travers Program, applies to those enrolled in the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP), Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program (MECP) or Marine Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP).
- Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP). Administered by the Navy Marine Corp Relief Society, STAP is a need-based program for spouses living overseas with their military member. Grants pay 50 percent of the tuition up to $300 per-term with an academic yearly cap of $1,500.
U.S. Coast Guard Tuition Assistance
With the Coast Guard falling under the Department of Homeland Security, instead of the Department of Defense, some of their educational benefits are administered differently:
- Tuition Assistance Program. Basically the same as the other tuition assistance programs, it pays 100 percent of tuition up to the per-term and per-academic yearly caps. Active, reserve and civilian employees can use the tuition assistance program to pay for professional or technical development courses taken in their off-duty time.
- Coast Guard Foundation Education Grant (CGFEG). A yearly grant paying up to $350, for active duty or long-term order reservists, in grades E-3 through E-9 that can be used to pay for books, consumable materials and associated fees.
- Vander Putten Education Grant (VPEG). The Vander Putten Grant picks up where the CGFEG ends. Once you hit your CGFEG $350 limit, you can apply for up to a $500 grant to pay for the remaining tuition and associated costs.
- SOCCOAST. Similar in nature to the other SOC's, colleges within the network are designated either SOCCOAST-2 (associate degree) or SOCCOAST-4 (bachelor's degree) type institutions. Open to all Coast Guard members and families, students can take courses regardless of stationing and be assured their credits transfer to their designated "home" college.
Military Officer Training to Pay for Education
If you are a high school graduate looking for a way to fund your college education, consider a career as a military officer. Two of the most common training programs include:
- Military Academy
- Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)
Each of the service branches offer military education training programs through dedicated military academies. Examples include West Point, the United States Military Academy, and the Citadel. Entrance into a service military academy is by appointment from your state congressmen. Once in the academy, you study both military and civilian topics in a military environment. Your degree options are limited and apply directly to your military service branch.
In the ROTC program, you study at a civilian university and periodically attend military classes and training during the academic year with additional training in the summers. With the ROTC program, you can major in any field.
Tuition Assistance and Education Benefits: Spouses and Families
In addition to the above programs in each branch, there are more spouse and family programs designed to assist you with your educational goals. To name a few of these programs:
- The Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Program provides eligible military spouses up to $6,000 of educational assistance to pursue a degree, certification or license leading to employment in a one of many portable career fields. The MyCAA program pays for tuition, books, supplies, exams, certifications, and licenses.
- The National Military Family Association (NMFA) sponsors the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship. Open to spouses of active duty, reserves, guard, retired and widow(ers), the scholarship can be used to pay for tuition and books when enrolled in a professional certification, undergraduate or graduate school program.
- The Fisher House also sponsors scholarships for children of military families through their Scholarships for Military Children Program. Each commissary awards one $1,500 scholarship that the recipient may use to pay for tuition or books. Applicants must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) database to apply.
- For the past two years, the Navy awarded forty $500 scholarships through their Anchor Scholarship program. The scholarships apply to both Navy dependent children and spouses, with a focus on those demonstrating high academic and character standards.
- During the 2009-2010 academic year, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation plans to award fourteen-hundred $3,000 scholarships to children of current or retired Marines. They also award $30,000 scholarships to every child of Marines, or Navy Corpsmen serving with the Marines, whose parent was killed while serving in the Global War on Terror.
- Additionally, the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits can be transferred between a service member and his/her spouse if the eligibility criteria are met. The GI Bill transfer gives spouses and dependents the ability to use all of the military education benefits to which the sponsoring service member is eligible.
What Careers Are The Most Appealing To Veterans?
Each year, the military produces over 400,000 civilian workers. As you join this field, your skills, leadership, and work ethic can become a benefit to numerous employers. When you consider your transition to civilian life, you may want to pursue careers in the following fields:
- Computer Science and Network Management
- Health Care
- Human Resources
- Education and Training
- Law Enforcement
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, these career fields should have higher-than-average employment opportunities between 2006 and 2016.
Salary Information For Common Veteran Careers
In 2008, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics list the median annual wage for each of the above career field groups as:
- Computer Science: $87,900
- Network Management: $69,570
- Health Care: $67,890
- Human Resources: $58,230
- Education and Training: $53,545
- Law Enforcement: $52,810
Keep in mind within each career group, there are several different occupations, from nurse to HR representative, police officer to computer programmer. The annual median wage listed is average for that career group. You can look at the median as a good starting place. Armed with your military experience and post-secondary education, you should be prepared to join the civilian work force across a number of industries.
By planning ahead and taking advantage of the various military education benefits and tuition assistance program, you could have a considerable advantage over your non-military competitors when you seek out a civilian career. If you are currently serving, or have served, the military has an education program for you, your spouse, and your dependents.
Take advantage of these programs. You earned them--now use them.