Many people join the military in order to have college paid for, and it’s true that there are huge educational benefits that go along with serving your country.
From tuition assistance to earning college credit while you serve, there are many ways that the military pays for college.
Military Tuition Assistance
Each branch of the military has different programs to help service members pay college tuition. Both active duty and reserve members may be eligible for these programs which pay up to 100% of college tuition.
The requirements vary but in general, these payments cannot exceed $4,500 per fiscal year and is paid directly to your school versus acting as a loan.
The GI Bill
Originating after World War II, the GI Bill provided benefits to military service members and veterans as they transitioned into civilian life. Today, the GI Bill proves to be a beneficial part of how the military pays for college.
Montgomery GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill provides up to $1,857 of assistance per month for 36 months but it requires enrollment in the program which has a monthly fee of $100. It’s available for any active duty member who has served for at least two years and you must be enrolled in full-time study.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is available to service members who have served for at least two months on active duty since September 11, 2001. You’ll receive paid tuition and a stipend for housing and books for up to three years.
There are limitations with GI Bill programs. For example, out-of-state or private institutions will likely exceed the tuition cap, but with other military programs and scholarships, you may still be able to find ways that the military can cover your expenses.
Additionally, you’re most likely required to complete eight years of service (four years of active duty and four years of reserve) to qualify for GI Bill benefits.
Tuition Assistance “Top Up” Program
If you qualify for both tuition assistance and GI Bill benefits, you may be eligible to receive a “top up” on your tuition. Tuition assistance will pay 75% of your fees and the “top up” will pay the remainder.
Student Loan Repayment
If you’ve already completed a college degree and find yourself with a mountain of student debt, the military can help with that as well. Each branch of the military has its own student loan repayment programs in which you can receive up to $120,000 to help repay your student debt.
Student Loan Forgiveness
In addition to loan repayment programs, you may also be eligible for student loan forgiveness which eradicates your loan altogether. The most popular military debt forgiveness benefit is called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) which forgives any remaining loan balances after 10 years of public service and 120 monthly payments.
If you are in imminent danger or you’ve suffered a service-related disability, you might also qualify for other loan forgiveness programs.
Deferred Loan Payments
Another way the military is helpful when it comes to paying for college is the fact that all service members are able to defer payments on both federal and private student loans while on active duty.
You can also have college paid for by the military when you join one of the service academies in the U.S. – the U.S. Military Academy (also known as West Point), the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
An education at each of these institutions is fully paid for including tuition, books, board, medical, and dental care. The only caveat is that these academies are incredibly competitive and require students to be top of their class academically, in top physical condition, and have Congressional recommendations.
The minimum service obligation is five years but most people who attend a military academy make military careers. If you meet the qualifications and graduate, you’ll earn a Bachelor of Science degree that the military has paid for.
You can save a substantial amount of money and time by earning college credit while on active duty in the military.
The American Council on education partners with the U.S. Department of Defense to decide what military training and skills could qualify as college credit for service members.
Servicemember Opportunity Colleges are a cohort of 1,900 colleges and universities across the country and overseas that offer credit transfers that give active duty military the opportunity to take classes wherever they might be stationed.
Additionally, service members can head to their local Base Education Center to take Credits Earned Through Testing (CLEP) examinations to earn college credits.
For more ideas on how to get financial assistance, check out our list of the best college scholarships for active duty, veterans and their families.