Tuition Assistance in the Military
Tuition assistance is given to military personnel who are on active duty, drilling or retired in the regular services or the Reserves. This benefit is for voluntary off-duty civilian education programs. It is separate from the GI Bill. What are the limitations of this benefit?
You may receive 100 percent tuition assistance if it falls within the limits of the program, which are $4500 per year and $250 per semester hour. The tuition assistance benefit is standard for all of the armed forces, including Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. It has caps and restrictions, which are subject to modification. It is wise to consult your Education Service Specialist, visit an Education Center, or your service's web portal to see what the current policy entails.
- Annual Ceiling for Tuition Assistance: $4500 for the fiscal year (October 1 through September 30)
- Semester Hour Cap: $250
- Cap on Number of Semester Hours Per Year: 16 semester hours
- Fees other than tuition might not be funded. Books and course materials are not funded.
- Services can impose specific eligibility criteria
- Officers will usually incur a service obligation that will run in parallel to an existing service obligation
- Top-up Program: This program allows you to use your GI Bill benefits to take more-expensive courses that are fully funded by tuition assistance
Accredited Distance Learning or Classroom Learning Programs
The tuition assistance benefits cover distance learning programs as well as classroom programs. The courses must be part of an approved academic degree or certificate program that is registered with the military. The courses must be accredited. You can find a list of participating institutions through the Department of Defense.
The Army funds 100 percent of the tuition costs up to the standard caps. The Army limits tuition assistance to 130 semester hours of undergraduate credit or baccalaureate degree and 39 semester hours of graduate credit for all post-baccalaureate degree education. No school fees are eligible for funding by tuition assistance.
You can apply for tuition assistance through GoArmyEd before starting the courses. It is approved on a course-by-course basis, and the courses must be part of an approved degree program. In 2014, a restriction was made that a soldier must have ten years of service before they can use tuition assistance for a second, higher-level post-bachelor degree program, such as getting a master's degree if they used tuition assistance for any portion of their baccalaureate degree. You can't use tuition assistance to get a second equivalent degree.
The Air Force funds both tuition and fees for active duty personnel up to the standard cap. There is a cap of 124 semester hours for undergraduate programs and 42 semester hours for graduate-level courses. Your supervisor must approve your tuition assistance request before you start classes. If you receive a grade of C or below in graduate courses or a D or below in undergraduate courses, you have to pay back your tuition assistance in a lump sum rather than making payments. Tuition assistance requests are made through the Air Force Portal at My.AF.mil.
Navy tuition assistance only covers tuition and does not pay for any fees, books, materials, exams, etc. It covers high school diploma and equivalency certificates in addition to college and post-graduate courses. The dollar limits are the same as the standard amount. The hour limits are 16 semester hours, 24 quarter hours or 240 clock hours per person. Failure to maintain grade levels or receiving an incomplete will result in being required to pay back the assistance. Full requirements are listed at NavyCollege.mil.
The Marine Corps tuition assistance covers only tuition and does not cover fees, books, exams, and other costs. You can only participate in up to two tuition assistance funded classes at a time. You have to pay back tuition assistance if you don't maintain a satisfactory grade, and you won't get further tuition assistance until it is paid back. First-time applicants must have at least 24 months of active-duty service.
Reserves and National Guard
National Guard and Reservists may be eligible for tuition assistance. It is determined by service eligibility. Both the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard offer Tuition Assistance in line with the standard for active duty personnel. Additionally, many states offer additional education benefits for members of their National Guard. Benefits can vary widely from state-to-state).
- Army Reserves: 100 percent TA up to the standard limits for drilling reservists, 75 percent for officers pursuing a bachelors degree.
- Air Force Reserves: 100 percent Tuition Assistance for undergraduate degree programs and 75 percent TA for graduate studies, within the limits of the active duty tuition assistance program.
- Coast Guard Reserves: TA for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. TA cannot exceed $4,000 annually.
- Navy Reserves: The Navy has restrictions on which reservists can get tuition assistance. They must be on continuous active duty or be an enlisted reservist ordered to active duty for 120 or more days or a reservist officer ordered to active duty for two years or more.
- Marine Reserves: There is no tuition assistance for the Marine Reserves unless you qualify for the active duty tuition assistance under Title 10.