An Introduction to Your Military Education Benefits
- What Are Military Education Benefits and How Can They Help You?
- Does Each Branch of Service Have Its Own Military Education Benefits?
- Can You Get a Free College Education?
- Family Military Education Benefits
- Popular Civilian Careers for Military Veterans
- Potential Civilian Salaries for Military Veterans
What Are Military Education Benefits and How Can They Help You?
One of the rewards for serving in the military is financial assistance to help you complete your education. There are military education benefits programs available for active duty, reserve, and veteran servicemembers. Active duty personnel can use their benefits during their off duty hours to earn college degrees. Other military education benefits programs are available for military veterans to use after separating from military service to earn undergraduate and graduate college degrees. These programs include the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), the New GI Bill (Post-9/11 GI Bill), Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP), and the Yellow Ribbon Program.
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Military education benefits such as Tuition Assistance and Tuition Assistance Top-Up are designed for active duty servicemembers who wish to continue their educations during their off duty hours. These programs may be used for traditional college courses, or to participate in approved online degree programs. Programs such as DANTES work with the American Council on Education (ACE) to help servicemembers and veterans receive college credits for their military experience and training.
Some of the more popular military education benefits programs for servicemembers and veterans are:
- Tuition Assistance
- Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
- Tuition Assistance Top-Up Program
- Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP)
- Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)
- New GI Bill (Post-9/11 GI Bill)
- Yellow Ribbon Program
Does Each Branch of Service Have Its Own Military Education Benefits?
Some military education benefits programs are shared by all branches of the military, but each branch also has benefits programs tailored to meet the needs of its own servicemembers. A breakdown of the military education benefits programs by branch of service:
U.S. Army Military Education Benefits Programs
The Army knows how important it is to provide the means for servicemembers and their families to continue their educations, and has many programs in place to provide assistance. There are programs to provide financial assistance, and others help Army servicemembers and their families continue their pursuit of college degrees even with military relocations. Some of the Army military education benefits programs are:
- Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). The Army Tuition Assistance Program can provide eligible Army servicemembers with up to 100 percent of the tuition costs while attending school during their off duty hours. This program may be used for traditional classes or for approved online degree programs.
- SOCAD. The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Army Degree (SOCAD) is a group of colleges and universities that work together to help Army servicemembers and their families earn college degrees. Member schools ease the residency requirements for earning a degree, and make it easier to transfer credits between member schools, something that helps servicemembers and their families as they change duty stations.
- College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP). The CLRP is an Army education benefits program which must be entered into at the time of your enlistment. The program can provide up to $65,000 for the repayment of eligible student college loans.
- Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP). SSEAP is an education benefits program designed for the military spouses of Army servicemembers who are stationed stateside. The program may be used by spouses of servicemembers who are on active duty or retired, as well as widows/widowers of servicemembers. The program provides assistance to military spouses who wish to continue their educations in order to broaden their career opportunities.
- Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP). OSEAP is similar to SSEAP, but it is designed for Army spouses stationed overseas. The program can provide up to $2,900 per year to assist military spouses who wish to continue their educations and increase their career opportunities.
- Major General James Ursano Scholarship Program. This scholarship is a part of the education benefits available from the Army Emergency Relief (AER), and can provide financial assistance to the dependent children of Army servicemembers and veterans while they attend college.
U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Military Education Benefits Programs
The Navy and the Marine Corps fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy, so they share most of their military education benefits programs, but some are adjusted for the individual service.
- Tuition Assistance Program. The Tuition Assistance program can provide up to $250 per credit hour for Sailors or Marines who wish to take college classes during their off duty hours. The program may be used for traditional college classes or for approved online degree programs.
- Loan Repayment Program (LRP) The Navy LRP is entered into during your initial enlistment, and may pay up to $65,000 towards eligible student college loans. The Marine Corps has an LRP that is in effect through 2011. This program can provide up to $30,000 toward the student college loans of officers who extend their active duty service.
- SOCNAV and SOCMAR. SOCNAV and SOCMAR are a part of the 1800 colleges and universities that make up the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC). Member colleges make it easier for Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers and their families who wish to earn college degrees by easing the residency requirements for their degree programs, and making it easier to transfer college credits between member schools.
- Seaman to Admiral Program (STA-21). The Navy STA-21 program provides a free college education to outstanding sailors. Sailors selected for the program are assigned to a college offering an NROTC program, and upon earning a degree, and successfully completing Officer Candidate School, they receive a commission in the Navy. The Marine Corps has a similar program named the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP).
- Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP). STAP is a program offered by the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society for Navy/Marine Corps military spouses living overseas with their military sponsor. The program provides up to $1,500 per year of tuition assistance in earning a college degree.
- Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Loan Program. The Travers Program provides the dependent children of Navy/Marine Corps servicemembers and veterans with up to $2,000 per year in interest free loans for college tuition. The program may also be used by military spouses living stateside.
U.S. Air Force Military Education Benefits Programs
The Air Force provides many benefits to assist their servicemembers in continuing their educations. Some of the programs focus on courses which can enhance servicemembers' career growth in the Air Force.
- Tuition Assistance Program. The Air Force Tuition Assistance program provides financial assistance to Air Force servicemembers who wish to continue their educations during their off duty hours. The program is designed to provide benefits for attending traditional college classes and approved online degree programs.
- College Loan Repayment Program. The College Loan Repayment Program is entered into during your initial enlistment, and can pay up to $10,000 towards eligible college student loans.
- Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). The CCAF is a collection of schools that offer degree programs and training to Air Force servicemembers. The group of schools is comprised of Air Force schools, and over 1,500 civilian colleges and universities.
- General George S. Brown Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP). The STAP program can provide tuition assistance to the spouses of Air Force servicemembers and veterans. STAP can provide up to $1,500 per year, and is available after other sources of assistance have been exhausted.
- General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program. This grant program can provide up to $2,000 per year for the dependent children and military spouses of Air Force servicemembers and veterans. The grants are through the Air Force Aid Society, and may be used for undergraduate studies.
U.S. Coast Guard Military Education Benefits Programs
The technically now falls under the Department of Homeland Security, but it still offers a number of military education benefits programs.
- Tuition Assistance Program. The Coast Guard's Tuition Assistance Program can provide up to 100 percent of the tuition costs for active duty servicemembers and reservists who wish to continue their educations during their off duty hours. The program is also open to eligible civilian employees of the Coast Guard, and may be used for traditional college classes and approved online degree programs.
- SOCCOAST. SOCCOAST is affiliated with the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), and provides opportunities for Coast Guard servicemembers and their families to earn college degrees even while relocating due to military transfers. Residency requirements for earning degrees are relaxed, and college credits may be transferred between member schools.
- Coast Guard Foundation Education Grant (CGFEG). The CGFEG can provide up to $350 per year for books and other educational costs. The program is for active duty servicemembers and reservists between the ranks of E-3 and E-9.
- Vander Putten Education Grant (VPEG). The VPEG may be applied for if the benefits provided by the CGFEG do not cover all of your education costs. The VPEG can provide an additional $500 per year.
Can You Get a Free College Education?
Each branch of service offers the opportunity for high school graduates to earn a free college education by serving as a military officer on active duty for a period of time. The two most popular military education benefits programs for high school graduates wishing to be commissioned as an officer are:
- Military Academies. Each branch of the military has its own military academy, with the Navy and Marine Corps sharing the Naval Academy. High school students wishing to attend a military academy must receive an appointment from their Congressman. Applicants who are accepted receive a completely funded college education, and upon earning their degree and completing their military training, receive a commission.
- Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Many colleges and universities have ROTC departments. High school students can receive a four year scholarship to participate in a ROTC program at any college or university that has an ROTC department. Students take military training and classes during the school semester, but otherwise attend classes just as any other student. ROTC students also participate in military training during summer breaks. When you earn your degree, and successfully complete Officer Candidate School, you are commissioned as an officer in your branch of service, and serve a period of time on active duty.
Family Military Education Benefits
Military families have other military education benefits programs for which they may also be eligible. These programs can provide additional assistance to eligible military spouses and dependent children who wish to continue their educations.
- New GI Bill. The New GI Bill has a provision allowing eligible servicemembers to transfer their military education benefits to qualifying military spouses and dependent children.
- Yellow Ribbon Program. The Yellow Ribbon Program is a benefits program that can be used in conjunction with the New GI Bill. Schools that participate in the program fund up to 50 percent of the tuition costs which are not covered by the New GI Bill, and the VA matches the school's contribution.
- Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships to the dependent children of active duty and retired Marine Corps servicemembers.
- Anchor Scholarship Program. The Anchor Scholarship Program awards scholarships to the spouses and dependent children of active duty and retired Navy servicemembers.
- Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). MyCAA can provide eligible military spouses with up to $6,000 of assistance in continuing their education to start a career in a portable occupational field. The benefits may be used to earn a degree or participate in a certification program.
- Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship. This scholarship program is open to military spouses of active duty, reserve, or retired servicemembers. The program can provide assistance for tuition while earning an undergraduate or graduate degree, or taking a certification program.
- Fisher House's Scholarships for Military Children Program. This program provides $1,500 scholarships for dependent children of servicemembers, and may be used for tuition and books while earning a degree.
Popular Civilian Careers for Military Veterans
Every week servicemembers leave the military and make the transition to civilian life. Some of these servicemembers are retiring after 20 or 30 years of active duty service, while others leave because their enlistment is up. In most cases, servicemembers are young enough to start a civilian career. Civilian companies often recruit military veterans because of their leadership traits and military training. Some of the more popular civilian career fields for military veterans are:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that each of these occupational fields should experience above average employment growth between now and 2018.
Potential Civilian Salaries for Military Veterans
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics also has salary data for the above occupations. The data is based on national surveys and arrives at the average median annual salary. The above career fields have many specialties within their broad heading, and some careers within each field may have higher or lower median salaries.
- Law Enforcement: $52,810
- Education: $53,545
- Human Resources: $58,230
- Computer Science: $87,900
- Health Care: $67,890
The civilian job market can be competitive. By taking advantage of your military education benefits to continue your education while you are on active duty, or after you separate from the military, you may give yourself a substantial advantage when starting a civilian career. The military education benefits programs that are available to you and your family are some of the best that have ever been offered. Don't let them go to waste.
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Benefits for dependents