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Military Tuition Assistance: Everything You Need to Know

As you are figuring out the costs of going to college as a service member, it’s important to consider using Military Tuition Assistance. This is another way for service members to pay for college and a good way to save their GI Bill benefits after they leave the military.

What Is Tuition Assistance?

The military tuition assistance program is an education program for actively serving military personnel.  This program may cover up to 100% of the cost-per-credit hour for your education. However, there are limits to what the program covers.  Each branch of the military operate their own individual Tuition Assistance (TA) programs, each with its own rules and regulations for TA.

Which Military Branches Have TA?

Space Force also has its own Tuition Assistance Program. Contact your Base Education Office to learn how to apply. You can also receive TA if you are in the National Guard or the Reserve.

Who Qualifies For Military Tuition Assistance?

According to DoD literature, “To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied.” Officers who use TA “must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.”

Related: Military Education Benefits for Veterans

How Much Will TA Pay For?

Tuition Assistance pays up to 100% of tuition expenses up to a maximum of $250 per credit hour.) An annual cap on the benefit applies; $4,500 per fiscal year, which is October 1st through September 30th. In addition, there is a 16-semester hour cap. Books and supplies are not funded with Tuition Assistance. Course-related fees may be covered.

Related: Colleges Fully Paid For With Military Tuition Assistance

There are important considerations to make when weighing your TA options. One is how you pay for fees. Some choose to pay these fees out-of-pocket, but some may consider using the GI Bill to offset those fees. Others feel it’s best to save GI Bill options for school after military service.

What Military Tuition Assistance Does Not Cover

Tuition assistance will not cover books or supplies, flight training fees, do-over or repeated courses, and continuing education units. You may have TA funds withdrawn and you may be required to repay the full amount of your tuition in the following circumstances:

  • Leaving the military before the course ends
  • Quitting the course for reasons not related to illness, permanent change of station move, or mission requirements
  • Failing the course
  • Non-accredited or non-approved classes


In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Some want to know if they are liable for out-of-state tuition using military benefits like the GI Bill or Military Tuition Assistance when attending college. Those using the GI Bill should know that schools are typically required to offer in-state rates for those using VA benefits or risk being disqualified from accepting VA education funds.

  • Military Tuition Assistance is not administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, so the in-state tuition requirement does not apply.
  • Many students using TA are doing so to attend classes on base or via distance learning, and the same considerations (in-state versus out-of-state) may not apply.
  • Individual states may also have passed laws requiring military members to be charged in-state tuition regradless of their residency status.
  • You’ll need to check with your state and branch of military service to see what is possible for that service’s TA option.

Related: Best Online Schools for Military Tuition Assistance

What Types of School Can You Attend?

You can go to an academic college, a vocational or technical college, a two or 4-year school.  Distance learning may also be covered. Make sure your school is accredited and approved to receive tuition assistance funds.

Related: Top Schools For Military Tuition Assistance

Schools Approved for Military Tuition Assistance: Campus Learning

Remember to note that the program you are enrolling in must be approved to be covered, not the school.  Some partner schools are listed below and have paid for promotional consideration.

For a longer list of schools approved for Tuition Assistance, you can use the CollegeRecon School Finder.  Please go here.


Online Schools Approved for Military Tuition Assistance

Remember to note that the specific school program you are enrolling in must be approved. Some partner schools are listed and have paid for promotional consideration.

For a longer list of online schools approved for Tuition Assistance, you can use the CollegeRecon School Finder here.

Is TA Open to Every Paygrade?

TA is available for officers, warrant officers, and enlisted service members. However, you must have enough time remaining in service to complete the schooling TA pays for.

What Is the Difference Between a GI Bill and Tuition Assistance?

Military tuition assistance is only available to service members when currently serving.  The GI Bill can be used while serving or after you retire or separate from military service. Tuition Assistance is offered by individual military branches, while the Department of Veterans Affairs offers the GI Bill.

VA Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program

The VA Top-Up program is a way for the VA to pay the difference of the costs of tuition if TA does not cover everything. To qualify, you must be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Top-Up program uses your GI Bill benefit to pay the difference between what TA covers and what’s left to pay. It does not pay the full course cost, but your benefits will be reduced by the amount paid. The Top-Up program may be a good option if you plan to:

    • Use TA to complete a degree program when you are serving on active duty and don’t plan to continue using your education after you leave the service.
    • Take a small number of classes with TA while on active duty.  This will help you save most of your GI Bill benefits after military service to complete your educational program.

Top-up options are limited to 36 months of payments. The amount equals the difference between the total cost of a college course and the amount that TA will be paid through your service branch.

Those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill should note the entitlement is charged based on the training time you are enrolled in.

With the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, your entitlement may be charged based on the dollar amount of benefits the VA pays you. That is one month of entitlement for each payment you receive, which is equal to the full-time monthly rate for the GI Bill.

Learn more: GI Bill Benefits

How Do I Receive Tuition Assistance?

Visit your local installation education center to get started with TA.

You can also search colleges and universities that accept Military Tuition Assistance.




About the author

Lori Waddell serves as Co-director of an emergency response COAD in Montana, a freelance writer, and an Air Force Key Spouse. She is passionate about empowering communities and individuals through knowledge and resources. She currently lives in Montana with her husband and two children.