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How to Get the Military to Pay for Your Education


Below is a broad overview of military aid. If you are thinking seriously about military service and its educational options, visit military-specific websites and contact appropriate military representatives. If you are already a military servicemember, consult an education officer at your installation education center about financial aid opportunities. The military offers a variety of financial aid options - for active duty servicemembers and veterans - but eligibility requirements vary depending on duty and branch. In some cases, military personnel qualify for more than one form of aid but electing one form may preclude the election of others.

Tuition Assistance

For active duty members in any of the military branches (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard) the military will pay 100% of tuition for eligible students who enroll in accredited institutions and attend courses in off-duty hours. Aid is capped per credit hour and per year. Tuition assistance is available to a lesser extent for National Guard and Army Reserve members on active duty. Tuition assistance from the military does not need to be repaid. It is a benefit of service.

Reserve Officers' Training Corp (ROTC)

The ROTC funds a traditional college experience as part of its leadership and training program for officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The ROTC offers scholarship packages that cover tuition, fees, books, as well as housing stipends. Students are required to take military courses alongside their degree requirements and to serve as commissioned officers in their chosen branch upon graduation. There is a one-year trial basis option, should students be unsure if they are fit and ready for ROTC membership. Again, stipulations and monies vary depending on military branch.

The GI Bill

The GI bill was established for veterans of WWII and has since undergone a few overhauls. The current version is umbrella to a few different benefit programs.

  • The Post 9/11 GI Bill: Active duty servicemembers with at least 90 days of active service after 9/11/2001 are eligible. Reservists with 3 years of active duty service after 9/11/2009 are also eligible. Benefits are based on maximum state tuition rates and calculated as percentages. The longer you have served, the higher percentage of state maximum earned.

    - Benefits can be used towards eligible college and university programs, including distance and online programs, and in very specific and limited cases non-college degree, certification, and work-study programs.

    - Tuition and fees are paid directly to schools; benefits cannot exceed maximum state rates. See GI Bill websites for state-by-state maximums.

    - Eligible students receive a housing allowance, a book stipend, and in some cases a one-time rural benefit payment for relocation costs.

    - Look into whether the school of your choice participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, whereby you can further reduce tuition burden.

    - The Marine GYSGT John David Fry Scholarship is awarded to children of active duty servicemembers who died in the line of duty.

    - Servicemembers enrolled in the Post 9/11 GI Bill can apply to transfer their unused benefits to spouses or children.

  • Montgomery GI Bill:

    - Applies to college and university programs, including distance and online programs, non-college degree programs, on-the-job and apprentice training, flight training, correspondence courses, licensing and certification programs, national testing programs, entrepreneurship training, co-op training, and work-study programs.

    - The government provides up to 36 months of benefits at a set payment rate. Generally, benefits are payable for ten years after release from active duty.

    - Benefits can be used toward room, board, and books but there are not separate benefits for expenses beyond tuition and fees.

  • Montgomery GI Bill - SR (Selected Reserve): If you are a Reservist for the Army, Navy , Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, or the Air National Guard, you may be eligible for Montgomery GI Bill benefits at adjusted terms.
  • College Fund Programs / GI Bill "Kicker": The GI Bill "kicker" increases the amount of the basic benefit you receive from the GI bill, depending on the length of your enlistment, the branch of service, the position you fill, and your location of service. You must sign up for the "kicker" option when you first enlist and you need to receive GI bill benefits in order to receive additional "kicker" benefits. If you join the reserve and qualify for the GISR, there are also reserve "kicker" benefits.
  • Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP): Reserves of the armed forces activated for at least 90 days after 9/11/01 are eligible for benefits or additional benefits.

Service Academies

Military academies require superior academic and physical abilities, as well as substantial character references. Preparatory school is common for hopeful cadets. Upon graduation, cadets are commissioned into active duty military service for a minimum of five years; commitment beyond that minimum varies with branch and position. The United States Military Academy (, United States Naval Academy (, United States Air Force Academy (, and United States Coast Guard Academy ( offer full benefits to its cadets. Cadets are typically responsible for personal supplies and expenses. The Merchant Marine Academy ( corresponds in standards to those academies of the armed forces though, to note, it is not technically part of the United States Defense Department.

College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

If you have student loans, the military offers significant relief for those who haven't previously served in the military and enlist for full-time duty, provided these loans are guaranteed by the Department of Education or otherwise approved for branch repayment. The Army and Navy programs cover as much as $65,000 in debt; the Air Force program has a maximum of $10,000.

  • Tuition Support, Today's Military (
  • "Tuition Assistance (TA) Program Overview", "The GI Bill Kicker". (, (
  • Army ROTC (; NROTC (
  • U.S. Air Force ROTC (
  • "Post 9/11 GI Bill" United States Department of Veteran Affairs (
  • United States Military Academy West Point (
  • United States Naval Academy (
  • U.S. Air Force Academy (
  • United States Coast Guard Academy (
  • United States Merchant Marine Financial Aid (

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Disclosure: Not all programs are accelerated, available in all locations, or in both online and on-campus formats. Financial aid including grants, scholarships and loans may be available to those who qualify. Program lengths and outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed. CompareTopSchools is a consumer information site that offers free, independent ratings and recommendations of colleges and universities. While we receive advertising revenue from most of the schools we rate and recommend, our editors thoroughly research each school and offer their honest opinions when rating each one. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own, including, without limitation, our designation of a particular institution as being a "top" or "best" school, college or university.