Army Financial Aid & Tuition Assistance for College

Army Active Duty Education Benefits

The service that members of the Armed Forces give to their country is deeply appreciated and Army personnel are entitled to a number of education benefits. The first step in finding the right program for you is to take the time to learn about your options. Whether you are on active duty, in the reserve or guard or are a veteran, financial assistance is available to help you reach your personal and professional goals.

Montgomery Bill Benefits

The provisions of the Montgomery Bill provide a number of benefits for active duty personnel. The Montgomery Bill Active Duty(MGIB-AD) allows qualified service members to receive up to 36 months of funding for educational purposes. Recruits contribute a base amount to MGIB from their regular pay during during their first 12 months of service. The money can be used either while serving or after being honorably discharged.

MGIB benefits have the advantage of offering eligible Army personnel a higher level of flexibility in choosing an educational program. They can choose to pursue a certificate, diploma or degree program from an accredited educational institution. Other education options under Montgomery Bill benefits include attending a technical or vocational school, as well as flight training.

The Montgomery Bill Buy-Up (MGIB Buy Up) program allows serving members of the Army to make extra contributions to their regular benefit funding program. The government tops up the extra contributions, which provides a higher level of financial support while studying. The extra contributions, which are a nominal amount, are then multiplied several times by the government to provide a benefit worth much more than the initial investment made by the solider.

Along with the Buy Up program, bonuses may be available to Army personnel to fund their education. The MGIB Kicker offers this opportunity to selected soldiers who have special qualifications or in recognition of people who have completed extended military contracts. Choosing the right career in the Army can qualify a soldier for these extra benefits. The money received from these bonus payments can be used up to 10 years after being honorably discharged.

Servicemen and women who are pursuing a high tech degree can take advantage of the MGIB Top Up program. This option allows them to use their TA and MGIB benefits together and can be accessed by active duty members who are enrolled in a program where the tuition is $4,500 or more.

MGIB Top Up can be a good option for personnel who are interested in continuing their education while on active duty. The program must be approved before benefits can be received and the soldier must indicate that he or she plans a career in the high tech field before funds will be provided under the MGIB Top Up program.

The New GI Bill for Army Active Duty

The New GI Bill, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, applies to servicemen and women who have a minimum of 90 days of active service after September 10, 2001. It provides reimbursement for education costs (tuition and fees) and pays out a benefit for housing and other costs.

Under the provisions of the New GI Bill, eligible servicemen and women can have the full cost of college tuition (up to the amount charged by the most expensive school in the recipient’s state of residence), as well as a stipend to pay for housing costs, books and materials. The housing benefit is available to full-time students only.

Only programs leading to a degree will be funded under the New GI Bill. This program does not provide financial assistance for people who want to obtain a certificate or who are looking at apprenticeship training. Funding may be extended for an online degree program, but the soldier would not be entitled to receive a housing benefit in this instance.

The exact level of financial aid provided depends on the length of active duty service. To qualify for full benefits, a soldier must have served at least 36 months or have been separated from the Army due to a disability. Benefits are prorated for Army personnel with a record of less than three years of active duty, ranging from 40 percent for someone with up to six months of service to 90 percent for a soldier with 30 months of service.

Tuition Assistance benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill can be accessed by eligible Army personnel up to 15 years after their period of service ends. Veterans who qualify for assistance may be able to transfer their benefit to their spouse or a child.

Tuition Assistance for Active Duty Army Personnel

The Army Tuition Assistance (TA) program has put in place to help defray the cost of courses taken on a voluntary basis. Army personnel who want to take courses for personal or professional improvement purposes while off duty. Some restrictions apply to who can take advantage of this benefit and what types of courses are eligible.

Active Duty Tuition Assistance benefits can be used by personnel enrolled in a degree or certificate program at accredited educational institutions. A person interested in this option can choose to take classes at a trade school, public or private college. This benefit is also available to those who enroll in an online program.

TA funds are provided based on a set amount per approved credit hour. The amount of funding that a soldier can receive is capped at a set amount each year. Recipients who are interested in taking a course which would cost more than the level of funding available under the program may need to consider supplementing their TA with MGIB benefits to get a higher amount of the cost paid.

TA is offered on the basis that the recipient will complete the funded course with a passing grade. If the student withdraws for personal reasons or doesn’t pass the course, TA funds will have to be repaid.

Another way for Army personnel to pay their post-secondary tuition is through the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). For each dollar that an eligible service member contributes, the government contributes $2 into his or her education fund. These funds may be used within 10 years of being honorably discharged. If they are not used within that time frame, the veteran will receive reimbursement for his or her personal contribution to the fund only.

Application for Financial Aid

Service members who want to further their education can take advantage of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s a necessary first step for anyone who would like to be considered for government financial aid. Military financial aid programs may cover most of the cost of obtaining a certificate, diploma or degree, but Army personnel may be able to qualify for other sources of funding to fill in the gap to cover the cost of getting an education through grants or loan programs.

Get Credit for Knowledge and Experience

One way to finish a degree program more quickly is to get credit for knowledge and experience, and Army personnel can take advantage of the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Instead of taking an entire course over several weeks, participants take a test on one day. Passing the exam means the soldier receives credit and is one step closer to completing his or her program of studies.

The cost of taking an eligible exam under CLEP is covered under the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) program. Military spouses and civilian employees may also qualify to have the cost of taking an exam covered under DANTES. Some exams may be written on the Base, and assistance with obtaining study materials to prepare for writing them may be available.

Tuition Payment Options for Army Personnel

The cost of post-secondary education can be a stumbling block for active duty Army personnel. The Accelerated Payment Program (APP) provides assistance in paying tuition for high-tech classes in a lump sum to cover the cost of attending classes on a semester by semester basis. Receiving funding in a larger chunk will make it easier for the recipient to pay for tuition and other costs associated with going to school.

Financial Assistance for a Service Member’s Spouse

Not all the educational benefits available to are geared toward members of the Army. A spouse of a serviceman or woman stationed overseas can apply for help through the Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP). It provides partial tuition assistance through an interest-free loan based on need to spouses studying on either a part-time or full-time basis, up to a specific annual funding cap.

Army education benefits have been put in place to provide assistance to those who wish to pursue post-secondary educational programs. Each type of program has its own eligibility requirements and restrictions on the type of programs it will fund, as well as maximum benefit levels which will be paid out. By learning about the available options, service members can choose the ones which will help them finance their education most effectively.