Your military service offers fantastic educational benefits. Yet most people do not take advantage of these.
Be forewarned: You are not automatically given your educational benefits. They must be earned. To take advantage of your benefits, it is most important to:
- Do your job well.
- Advance in rank (earns you more respect and responsibility).
- Stay out of trouble.
- Be honorably discharged (if you are leaving the military).
So there you have it, common sense rules. Play by them and you will earn your educational benefits. Below is a table summarizing the most important educational benefits for each service. Read about each program further below.
1. The GI Bill
The GI Bill can give active duty reserve and Guard members either 36 months of free college plus a monthly housing allowance or up to $76,000 tax free money to help pay for many different types of education. Some military members may also transfer their unused GI Bill benefits to their family members.
The GI Bill can pay for college, trade school, professional certifications or licensing, and on-the-job training. The GI Bill can be used worldwide at public or private schools.
2. The Army, Navy and Marine College Funds
The College Fund, also known as a "GI Bill kicker," can give you up to an additional $20,000 for college. Qualifications and amounts vary from service to service, normally you must serve a certain amount of years in a designated career field that is either dangerous, highly technical or short of personnel. This benefit is available for both active-duty and Reserve service members.
3. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)
In ROTC, you can get up to a full four-year scholarship plus an annual stipend. ROTC graduates also enter services as officers. You can try ROTC for two years with no obligation.
4. Service academies
Service academies offer a quality education with technical and liberal arts majors. Cadets earn a monthly salary while at the academies and a commission upon graduation. Acceptance to the academies is very competitive.
5. College loan repayment
The Air Force, Army and Navy offer student loan repayment programs for qualified candidates. The Army and Navy will pay off up to $65,000 of outstanding college loan debt. This benefit is available to active duty and Reserve service members.
6. Student loan deferment/forbearance
The U.S. Dept. of Education offers student loan deferment or forbearance to active duty and Reserve (on active duty) service members. This means that you could defer any student loan payments until you leave the military.
7. Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP)
The armed forces Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is a benefit provided to eligible members of all branches. The military will pay up to $4,500 a year for the tuition expenses to help you go to school while serving your country. That could total over $18,000 in a four-year enlistment.
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