While loyalty and a sense of justice are the best reasons to serve one’s country, thousands of American soldiers have found that college assistance benefits provide yet another valuable incentive for enlisting.
Educational assistance for military personnel is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and it can come in many forms. The most common type of assistance is the GI Bill, a fund introduced in 1944 as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act that provided “education funding, unemployment compensation, and various loans” to troops (often referred to as GIs) returning from World War II. It was later expanded to cover veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service personnel.
Currently, the most commonly awarded types of military educational assistance are:
Individuals who have completed at least 90 days of service on or after September 11, 2001, or those who receive an honorable, service-injury-related discharge after 30 days qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which:
- Was approved by Congress in the summer of 2008 and went into effect August 1, 2009
- Extends benefits to more people
- Includes varying award amounts that can cover the full cost of public college (approved undergraduate, graduate, and vocational/technical training) in the participant’s state
This benefit, which must be used within ten years from the participant’s date of discharge or release:
- Provides up to 36 months of education benefits
- Provides $1,321 per month as of 2009
- Can be used toward degree or certificate programs, apprenticeships/job training, and distance learning courses as approved by the VA
- Incorporates the Buy-up Option wherein full-time, active duty participants can contribute up to $600 more toward their GI Bill. Each dollar is matched eight-to-one by the federal government for a total of $5,400 in additional funds.
The MGIB-SR is similar to the MGIB-AD, but is offered to members of the Selected Reserve (Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard).
The REAP program:
- Was designed to assist members of military reserve units who are called to active duty in response to a war or national emergency
- Can include an added benefit for individuals activated after September 11, 2001
- Includes the Buy-up Option
Certain eligible dependents of veterans can earn up to 45 months of education benefits under the DEA program. Applicants must meet a number of relationship qualifications and other eligibility requirements.
The federal government offers a number of educational assistance programs for military service personnel. Eligibility depends on several factors, so it’s important to meet with your supervisor or college admissions representative and visit the Department of Veterans Affairs when researching funding.
Additionally, ask yourself these basic questions when determining which award is best for you:
- What type of education/training will you pursue? (Click here to find out which types of training are covered by each assistance program)
- Which assistance programs are you eligible for?
- Will you be receiving other aid?
- What’s the maximum amount you can get under each benefit?