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How Your Military Benefits Can Help You Pay for College

Military service comes with some great education benefits. Learn to make the most of the perks you’ve earned.

Many of the education benefits apply to Service members still in uniform, and others remain available after you transition to the civilian world. Here’s the breakdown.

Tuition Assistance

Tuition Assistance (TA) is a benefit paid to eligible active-duty Service members and members of the Guard and Reserve pursuing education goals during off-duty periods. Each service maintains a TA program and sets specific eligibility criteria. Benefits are paid directly to the school but are limited to $250 per semester credit hour and $4,500 annually.

Eligible Programs include:

  • Accredited online or in-person courses
  • High school diploma
  • Vocational, technical and certification programs
  • Associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree

Learn more about the TA program.

GI Bill Benefits

The GI Bill is one of the best education benefits available to Service members. It can help you, or your dependents under certain conditions, pay for college tuition, job training and certifications. These benefits are typically used once you separate from service, since Tuition Assistance (TA) is a great benefit to use while still in uniform.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill

This bill pays all tuition and fee payments for an in-state student or up to $26,381.37 per academic year for a private or foreign school. Tuition payments are made directly to your school. You may also be eligible for a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. Benefits can be transferred to qualified dependents under certain conditions. Visit the VA website to transfer your benefits.

The Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) and Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

These bills currently pay up to $2,210 per month to help meet education and training costs. Payments are made directly to you. Montgomery GI Bill benefits are not transferable to dependents.

Post-9/11 Gl Bill MGIB-AD MGIB-SR
Minimum Length of Service 90 days active aggregate service (after 9/10/01) or,
30 days continuous if discharged for service-connected disability or,
No minimum service requirement if Purple Heart recipient
2 years continuous
enlistment (minimum
duty varies by service
date, branch, etc.)
6-year commitment
Maximum # of Months of Benefits 36 36 36
How Payments Are Made Tuition: Paid to school
housing stipend*: Paid monthly to student
Books & supplies stipend*: Paid to student
Set monthly amount
paid to student
regardless of actual costs
Set monthly amount
paid to student
regardless of actual costs
Duration of Benefits No expiration for those leaving the service on or after January 1, 2013 Generally, 10 years
from last day of Active Duty
Ends the day you leave
Selected Reserve
Transferability To qualified dependents* Not transferable Not transferable

*Under certain conditions

All three Gl Bills can be used for the following educational programs

  • Degree Training
  • Non-college Degree Training
  • Apprenticeship Training
  • Flight Training
  • Correspondence Courses
  • Licensing & Certification
  • National Testing Programs
  • Work-study Program

The GI Bill Kicker

Also referred to as the Navy, Army or Marine Corps College Funds, these service branches offer the GI Bill Kicker as a part of your reenlistment or enlistment contract. These are additional dollars to boost your basic monthly GI Bill disbursements. The amount you receive will depend on several factors such as your branch of service, the location of service, your job, enlistment date and the tenure of your enlistment contract.

For more details of each GI Bill program, to apply for benefits or to discuss your specific situation visit the VA website or call (888) 442-4551.

CLEP Exams

One of the best ways Service members can get a head start on college is the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). This test-for-credit program has been used for over 50 years and is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities.

  • Passing one CLEP exam can earn you the equivalent of 3 to 12 hours of college credit
  • The military pays for CLEP exams for all Service members
  • 15 CLEP credits applied toward a degree could save up to $17,000 depending on the type of school
  • Schools decide how much CLEP credits they will accept
Key Takeaway: Test out of certain classes and save money by using your real-life experience to acquire college credit.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program

This program provides education and training to dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or veterans who die on active duty OR as a result of a service-related condition.

For those who qualify, a monthly payment* will be sent to you directly to cover the cost of:

  • College or graduate degree programs
  • Career-training certificate courses
  • Educational and career counseling
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training

*Current rates can be found on the VA website.

Marine GYSGT John David Fry Scholarship

This program provides benefits to children and surviving spouses of Service members who died in the line of duty, while on active duty after September 10, 2001. For those who qualify, benefits include money for tuition, housing, books and supplies. To apply for benefits, visit the VA website.

Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarships

Offered at hundreds of colleges nationwide, ROTC allows students to attend school full-time while preparing for a career as a commissioned military officer. Some ROTC cadets qualify for scholarships that are awarded based on merit only—not financial need.


Thanks to the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART), individuals who receive military death gratuities or payments under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program can roll their benefit over to a Roth IRA and/or Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), without the usual restrictions on contribution limits. This money can go a long way in funding a dependent’s higher education expenses.