As you are figuring out the costs of going to college as a service member, you may have come across Tuition Assistance. This is another way for service members to find money for college.
What is Tuition Assistance?
Tuition Assistance (TA) is a program to receive up to 100% tuition assistance for your education. Your service branch will pay the tuition to the school, based on a few limits.
Which branches have TA?
All five branches of the armed forces, the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard have TA programs.
- Army Tuition Assistance
- Marine Corps Tuition Assistance
- Navy Tuition Assistance
- Air Force Tuition Assistance
- Coast Guard Tuition Assistance
Each of the services do have their own programs that have service-specific criteria. You can also receive TA if you are in the National Guard or the Reserves.
How much will TA pay for?
Tuition Assistance isn’t open-ended. There are limits. They will pay up to 100% of tuition expenses for semester hours up to $250. There is also an annual ceiling of $4,500 per fiscal year, which is October 1st through September 30th. There is also a 16-semester hour cap. Books and other materials are not funded with Tuition Assistance.
What types of school can you attend?
You can go to an academic college, a technical college, a two or four-year school, and even distance learning.
Make sure your school is accredited.
Is TA open to every rank?
Yes, TA is available for officers, warrant officers, and enlisted service members.
What is the difference between a GI Bill and Tuition Assistance?
Tuition Assistance is offered by the services, and the GI Bill is offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. You can also use your GI Bill after you get out of the service, but with tuition assistance it is only available when you are currently serving.
What is the Top-Up program?
- The Top-Up program is a way for the VA to pay the difference of the costs of tuition if TA does not cover everything. You have to be eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- The Top-Up program is a good idea if you plan to use TA to complete a degree program when you are serving on active duty and don’t plan to continue to use your education after you get out of the service.
- The Top-Up program is also good for taking just a few classes with TA while on active duty so you can save most of your GI Bill benefits for after service to complete your educational program.
- Top-Up is limited to 36 months of payments. If one class is three months, that would be three out of the 36 months.
- The amount would be equal to the difference between the total cost of a college course and the amount that TA will be paid through your service branch.
- To be eligible, you need to be approved for Federal TA by a military department and be eligible for a GI Bill.
- If the amount paid by the military together with the amount paid by the VA is more than the total cost of the course, a few things happen based on the type of GI Bill you have. With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your school would be reimbursed the difference between the amount of the money the DOD pays for the course, and the authorized maximum tuition and fees for the school. If you have the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, you will receive the difference between what the DOD pays and the total cost, not to exceed the monthly maximum of the GI Bill.
- Your GI Bill will be charged based on the type of GI Bill that you have. With the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the entitlement is charged based on the training time you are enrolled in. With the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty, your entitlement will be charged based on the dollar amount of benefits the VA pays you. That is one month of entitlement for each payment you receive that is equal to the full-time monthly rate for the GI Bill.
How do I receive Tuition Assistance?
You would need to go visit your local installation education center to get started with TA.
As you can see, TA can be what you need to figure out how to fund all or part of your education. Make sure to check with your branch’s own qualifications, so you know what you need to do to qualify and use this benefit.
For more on this program, go here.