According to the Department of Defense (DoD), in 2015, the U.S. armed forces were composed of 1,301,433 active-duty members and 826,106 reserve and guard members. Of those members, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported 1,016,664 current and past military members received a total of $12,316,795 in VA educational funds that same year.
Available VA options pay some or all tuition costs, depending on the amount of time served. A number of programs also stipulate enlistment or service years.
Programs funded by the VA include the Post-9/11 GI-Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill®, the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program, and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP).
Available VA options pay some or all tuition costs, depending on the amount of time served. A number of programs also stipulate enlistment or service years. The Montgomery GI-Bill Active Duty program, for example, has four different categories of applicants depending on years and time of entry into service. Candidates may use the GI Bill® Comparison Tool or contact Veterans Service Organizations for guidance on which program to choose.
Students may also attend known military-friendly colleges to further ease the financial burden of higher education. A resource of particular interest for military students seeking an online teaching degree is the Troops to Teachers project, which helps military members transition to teaching careers through guidance and financial assistance.
The Importance of Military Status
Financial options for an armed forces member attending a military-friendly college vary based on the applicant's military status. A scholarship presented solely to veterans, for instance, may not be earned by active-duty members. Candidates should understand their current military status to locate a financial assistance program that matches their qualifications.
These candidates commit to the Armed Forces on a full-time basis, perhaps residing on a military base, and deploy to foreign countries often. A number of assistance programs require active-duty status, providing students with several financial avenues.
Inactive status in the military means the enlisted person does not serve on a full-time basis, but instead returned to civilian life with the possibility of returning to active duty if needed. This status limits options for financial assistance in education.
Discharge means relieving an enlisted member of their military responsibilities. The reason for discharge impacts the given discharge type, which include honorable, general, and other than honorable (OTH). Only veterans with an honorable discharge qualify for Post-911 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill benefits. For other VA educational assistance, applicants with anything other than a dishonorable discharge may obtain funds.
Military members who retire or are honorably discharged hold status as veterans of the armed forces. Certain forms of financial assistance only extend toward veterans and sometimes their families, such as the VA's VEAP.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill®
The VA offers the Post-9/11 GI Bill to provide active-duty members, veterans, and their dependents with funding for education. To qualify, active-duty members must have served a minimum of 90 days following September 10, 2001. Veterans only need serve 30 days of service if discharged for a service-related injury.
Candidates from all military branches must use benefits from the GI Bill within 15 years after military duty concludes if their time of service began prior to January 1, 2013. Benefits for active-duty members and veterans who served more recently hold no such limitation. Students can use these funds for as many as 36 months toward education.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays for resident tuition at public schools, though more expensive private schools and out-of-state institutions may require additional funding, available through programs such as the Yellow Ribbon Program. Military-friendly colleges participating in Yellow Ribbon supply a portion of remaining tuition costs and the VA matches the same amount.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill also pays for certain trainings, supplies a Basic Allowance for Housing, and reimburses recipients for licenses, certifications, and examinations. Unused benefits may be transferred to a spouse or children but only during active service.
Interested candidates may apply in person at a VA organization or submit an application online.
The Montgomery GI Bill®
The Montgomery GI BIll, administered by the VA, offers assistance through two programs.
To qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD), applicants must complete a minimum of two years in active service, with supplementary qualifications extending into four categories of recipients. For the MGIB-AD program, participants contribute $100 each month for a year in exchange for future aid, though candidates may invest more for increased funding.
The second program, known as the Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), assists reservists with a six-year military commitment that began after June 30, 1985. Recipients may obtain funds for tuition and fees at public or private colleges and universities up to 36 months. Funds may also be allocated for training, assessments for certifications, and licensing fees. Individuals may apply online, in person, or by mail.
Servicemember Opportunity Colleges
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) incorporate around 1,900 schools that accept a high number of transfer credits from one another and require a low number of residency courses. Military members can pursue degrees with fewer relocation consequences.
Members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Army National Guard, and Coast Guard may benefit from SOC, with all noted military branches boasting specific SOC programs except for the Air Force. The Air Force runs the specific Community College of the Air Force, but members of the Air Force may still partake in SOC options.
The Army also benefits from the diversity of SOC colleges since this branch allows participants to study through military-friendly colleges online and supplies the Concurrent Admissions Program assists members of the army in organizing educational goals.
The DoD sponsors the SOC, and the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) directs this agreement.
Service members' life experiences can impact education, and a military-friendly college strives to make earning a degree easier for students with military history. Benefits of choosing a military-friendly college includes having military work count for credit, increased financial assistance, and support for adjustment to civilian life.
Tuition Discounts for Military
These discounts allow service members to enroll in courses while paying a lower amount of money than standard tuition. For example, Drexel University offers discounts as high as 50% for military students, depending on the selected program.
Some schools accept military experience for transfer credit, which includes prior learning credits. The American Council on Education assists in this process by supplying credit transfer advice through their Military Guide. By choosing a school that practices this method, military students can apply their years of service toward a quicker graduation.
This includes scholarships and benefits for spouses and children. Scholarships are available for current and past military members, and the VA offers assistance like the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Because these funds can negate the need for loans, learners should ensure the chosen school partakes in VA benefits.
This includes discounted housing, student organizations, job support post-graduation, and healthcare and counseling services. Students coming from the military may require extra support and understanding from learning institutions. For this reason, counseling services and student organizations at military-friendly colleges can provide avenues to interact with fellow military students. Career services and community organizations for veterans may also help students ease into college life.
This includes military studies. Military students may experience an easier transition into college by enrolling in military-related programs, such as a bachelor's in military science. Courses tailored for veterans’ potential communication difficulties with younger students may also help the transition.
This includes adjustable scheduling formats. Military-friendly online colleges prove ideal for candidates who require flexibility. Active-duty members could be called into service at any moment; therefore, colleges that allow students to return to coursework without penalty benefits the student’s overall educational experience. As military-friendly online colleges permit students to learn from anywhere, current military members can serve the country without sacrificing their pursuit of education.
* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.