Does the military pay for college? is an important question to have the answer to if access to education is a priority for you. You can potentially get free college if you join the military. However, there are specific eligibility requirements. So, for the details of whether joining the military pays for college, keep reading with us.
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Ways the Military Pays for College
Thanks to the military, free colleges are no longer just a dream! You can get military money for college by availing of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Tuition Assistance Program, College Fund Programs, and Loan Repayment Programs.
1. Post 9/11 GI Bill
This pays tuition and fees for in-state public schools but the caveat is that the amount one receives will not exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees in each state. The bill might also provide a living stipend and allowance for books and supplies.
The specific benefits will depend on one’s length of service.
- Those who have served for a minimum of 36 months or 30 continuous days before discharge for a service-related disability can avail of the maximum tuition and fees, monthly stipend, and books and supplies stipend.
- Those who have served for a minimum of 90 days but less than 6 months receive a half of the max benefit.
The bill is available to:
- Veterans who have served at least 90 days of continuous service after September 10, 2001
- Reserve and Guard members who have been activated for over 90 days since 9.11
2. Tuition Assistance Program
This is one way the Army pays for college-enrolling service members. Those in the Regular Army, National Guard, or Reserve can participate in this program. Specifically:
- Those on active duty in the Regular Army
- Those on active duty under Title 10 USC and on drilling status in the Army National Guard
- Those on active duty and on drilling status in the Army Reserve
are eligible for the program.
The Army pays for soldiers’ postsecondary education up to a semester hour cap of $250 and an annual cap of $4,000. If the soldier’s institution’s tuition and fees are less than $250 per semester hour, the Army will cover 100% of it. Otherwise, the Army will only pay up to $250 per semester hour.
In addition, the Army limits TA to 130 semester hours of a baccalaureate degree or undergraduate credit and 39 semester hours of a master’s degree or graduate credit.
- Active duty officers must commit to an Active Duty Service Obligation of 2 years
- Officers in the Reserve Component must commit to a Reserve Duty Service Obligation of 4 years
The ADSO and RDSO begin from the date of the soldier’s last completed course paid by the TA.
TA is also available for online courses or courses offered by other non-traditional means. However, those courses must be delivered by accredited colleges that the U.S Department of Education recognizes.
Active duty Marines with a minimum of 24 months of service and continuous-active-duty reservists can avail of TA. It is also available to enlisted reservists called to active duty for 120 days and reserve officers called to active duty for 2 years or more.
A Marine with TA can receive no more than $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour and $4,500 per fiscal year. However, TA cannot be used:
- For flight training
- For the same course taken more than once
- For non-tuition fees (Like supplies, exams, and distance learning expenses)
- For schools without an approved DoD Voluntary Education Partnership MOU
- For graduate studies through to the Master’s degree level and doctoral level
Moreover, if you have had or are pending disciplinary action, you will not be able to use TA. If your grades are lower than a D for non-graduate level courses and a C for graduate level courses, you will have to repay the TA you received.
Both Navy officers and enlisted active duty and reservists on active duty can avail of TA. It is also open to enlisted reservists called to active duty for 120 days and reserve officers called to active duty for 2 years or more.
To qualify for TA, a sailor must have a minimum of three years in service, be on active duty for the length of the course, and attend an accredited school. After graduating, the sailor must stay on active duty for 2 more years.
The TA cap is 18 semester hours per year and sailors can only use TA for two courses each quarter of the year. For a sailor’s career, there is a TA ceiling of 120 semester hours.
Sailors can receive up to 100% of the cost of their courses, but this cannot exceed $250 per semester hour, $166.67 per quarter hour, and $4,500 per fiscal year.
Sailors will have to pay back any TA received for undergraduate classes with a D or lower, graduate classes with a C or lower, and classes with a non-passing or incomplete grade.
Like the Army, the Air Force pays for college-enrolling service members in a TA program. You can receive a maximum of $250 per semester credit hour, $166.66 per quarter hour, or $4,500 per fiscal year.
If you fail a course, you will have to pay back the amount of TA you received. You must also maintain a 2.0 GPA for undergraduate degrees and a 3.0 GPA for graduate degrees to keep availing of the TA program.
TA will not be available for courses that lead up to a degree that is lateral or of a lower level than the degree you already have.
The Coast Guard requires you to be on active duty or are a reservist on long-term orders of over 180 days to qualify for the TA program. Then, you can use TA for courses that lead to a first Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree.
But the cap is 130 semester hours for undergraduate work and 40 semester hours for graduate work. You can receive no more than $250 per semester credit hour, $166.66 per quarter hour, or $4,500 per fiscal year.
Maintaining satisfactory progress and conduct to keep availing of TA is necessary. You will have to pay back any amount you receive for undergraduate courses with a grade below a C and graduate courses with a grade below a B.
3. College Fund Programs
This is offered by the DoD through the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. It is a part of a contract to enlist or a contract to reenlist. Essentially, it is an amount of money added to an individual’s basic monthly benefit. It is included with the person’s monthly GI Bill payment. (This means you cannot receive this money without receiving the GI Bill.)
How much a person receives depends on a few different factors, such as when he/she enlisted, the length of his/her enlistment contract, the service branch and job he/she is in, and where he/she is serving,
It can go up to $950 a month!
For the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the college funds you receive are added to the monthly housing allowance. If you are not receiving this, then you will not be eligible to receive the college funds. For the Montgomery GI Bill, the college funds you receive are added to the normal monthly payment.
4. Loan Repayment Programs
The Army Student Loan Repayment: Active Duty
The Army will pay up to 33.3% of your balance every year for three years, so in total, you can receive a max of $65,000. To qualify, you must be on active duty, enlist for a minimum of three years, and score 50 or higher on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery).
However, this loan assistance money can only be used for federal student loans like Perkins, Direct, or FFEL loans. It cannot be used for private loans.
The Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program
If you enlist for a minimum of six years, have loans before going on active duty, and are in a qualifying MOS, you can avail of loan assistance from the Army. The loan repayment program will entitle you to 15% of your balance for up to $20,000. However, it will not apply to private loans, only federal student loans.
Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program
You can get the military to pay for your college debt as a doctor, dentist, or another healthcare professional on active duty or in the Army Reserve. You can receive up to $40,000 per year for a maximum of three years with this loan repayment program for medical school debt.
Specialized Training Assistance Program (STRAP)
You can receive a $2,466 monthly stipend throughout your residency. In exchange, you will have to serve one year in the Army Reserve for every six months of stipend received.
The Prior Service Soldier Loan Repayment Program
The military paying for college after service is possible through this loan repayment program. If you are an Army Reserve soldier with prior service, you can receive a maximum of $50,000 for student loans. In a way, this is the military paying for your college debt.
The National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
If you are a member of the National Guard and enlist for at least six years, you can receive up to $50,000 for student loans.
The Navy Student Loan Repayment Program
You can receive at most $65,000 for student loans if you are in the Navy. This program is to help sailors in their first three years of service.
The Air Force College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
This is open to anyone enlisting in the Air Force with past student loan debt. It can provide up to $10,000 in yearly payments of a bit more than 33% of the debt or at most $1,500 (the higher of the two).
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
This is for anyone joining the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). You can receive a maximum of $65,000 for student loans over three years. However, this is only available after serving as a JAG officer for one year.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you work full-time with the military or another qualified non-profit and make 120 payments, the Public Service Program can forgive all your student loan debt. However, deferred payments will not count towards the 120 monthly payments.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
These are common questions we have seen on Reddit and other Q&A forums.
You might have the same inquiries. So, skim through this!
1. How much college tuition does the military pay?
This depends on many factors, such as the program you are availing of and your specific commitments to the military. For the TA program, for instance, you can receive a maximum of $250 per semester hour for 130 semester hours in total as an Army soldier.
2. How long do you have to serve in the military to get free college?
Again, this depends on the program you are availing of. For the Marine TA program, for example, you will need a minimum of two years of service if you are on active duty.
3. How does the military get free college?
You might be able to avail of the military’s free-college offering by MOSs. For example, there are programs available for medical and law students.
- Medical Students: Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program,…
- Law Students: Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
Now, you know that the answer to, “Does the military pay for college?” is YES. There are several military programs that pay for colleges, such as the TA Programs, College Funds Programs, and Loan Repayment Programs. Above, we have listed programs for those currently enlisting. But there are programs open for those after service and for spouses as well. If you are interested in either of these, stay tuned for our new articles.
I am Everett Bledsoe, taking on the responsibility of content producer for The Soldiers Project. My purpose in this project is to give honest reviews on the gear utilized and tested over time. Of course, you cannot go wrong when checking out our package of information and guide, too, as they come from reliable sources and years of experience.