Army Education Benefits: Know Your Options

U.S. Army Education Benefits Basics

Every soldier realizes how quickly weapons and equipment are developed, modified, and become obsolete. Tactics and strategies evolve and operational environments change. The key to meeting these challenges is education. An effective soldier is an educated soldier.

Every service establishes its own education programs, and U.S. Army education benefits are tailored to meet the needs of Army personnel. Additionally, these programs are designed to overcome some of the challenges of military service including frequent deployments, isolated locations, and limited access to quality educational facilities.

The U.S. Army developed various programs to assist soldiers and their families who want to begin or complete their educations or to finish paying off their school loans.

The Continuing Education program allows active duty soldiers the use of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to fund tuition cost and fees up to a maximum of $250 per credit hour. Taken during off duty hours, TAP is an excellent tool for active duty soldiers to further their educations at little or no cost. TAP benefits can be used for online courses if you are not stationed near a college of university.

In lieu of the GI Bill, soldiers who use loans to attend college may enroll in the U.S. Army College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP), an option that pays off a maximum of $65,000 in existing college loans. The CLRP requires a three-year active-duty Army enlistment. Reservists are also eligible, and the U.S. Army may pay off of a maximum of $40,000 in college loans in return for a six-year enlistment in the Reserves.

Frequent reassignments and transfers often play havoc on a U.S. Army family's educational goals. Servicemembers Opportunity College Army Degree (SOCAD) is supported by 1,800 accredited colleges whose mission is to provide U.S. Army personnel as well as their spouses and dependent children the means to achieve a college degree. Credits from participating SOCAD colleges are fully transferable between schools, allowing dependents to pursue educations regardless of location or transfers.

U.S. Army Education Benefits for Active Duty Soldiers

Soldiers serving on active duty may take advantage of a number of U.S. Army education benefits that are designed to improve their skills and educations. Benefits include:

  • College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

  • Tuition Assistance

  • Tuition Assistance Top-Up

  • New GI Bill

  • Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

  • Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

By mixing and matching benefits available to active duty members of the U.S. Army, schools and colleges can be made more affordable, putting a degree within reach. Servicemembers can use their benefits to earn undergraduate or graduate degrees--or even transfer certain benefits to spouses or children.

U.S. Army Education Benefits for Selected Reservists

These days, U.S. Army Reservists and National Guard members serve on extended tours of active duty and are expected to perform at higher and higher levels. As a result, U.S. Army education benefits are available to eligible soldiers in the Selected Reserve. These education benefits include:

  • Tuition Assistance

  • Loan Repayment

  • SOCAD/SOCGuard

  • Montgomery GI Bill- Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)

  • Montgomery GI Bill Buy-Up Program

  • Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) differs from Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) in one important area. To take advantage of these benefits, you must be in active, drilling status. Under MGIB-SR you lose your benefits upon discharge. Deployments allow you to earn additional benefits depending on the length of time you are deployed.

U.S. Army Education Benefits for Veterans

U.S. Army education benefits do not end after active duty. Many of the same benefits remain available to U.S. Army veterans, including:

  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill

  • Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD)

  • Montgomery GI Bill Buy-Up Program

  • Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

  • Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance Program (DEP)

  • Veterans Educational Assistance (VEAP)

  • Veterans Upward Bound Program (VUB)

As with many programs, chose wisely to maximize these U.S. Army veterans' education benefits. Certain restrictions may apply for how benefit programs can be combined so it's a good idea to talk to a VA representative to figure out what is most advantageous for your situation.

U.S. Army Education Benefits for Army Spouses and Dependents

Understanding the value of education in a rapidly changing world, the U.S. Army developed educational assistance programs to help soldiers' families obtain further education and meet their goals.

  • MG James Ursano Scholarship Program: Administered by the Army Relief Fund (AER), this scholarship assists dependent children with both college tuition and college related expenses (books, supplies, room and board, etc.).

  • The Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP): U.S. Army spouses based overseas are eligible to receive financial assistance to pursue an education that could lead toward improved employability and economic opportunity. OSEAP provides need-based assistance up to 50 percent of tuition costs, with a maximum of $580 per term or $2,900 per year.

  • U.S. Army Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP): Similar to the OSEAP, but offered to spouses living stateside, this program provides financial assistance not only to spouses of active-duty U.S. Army members, but also to spouses of retired or deceased soldiers.

  • Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA): Designed to help military spouses train for "portable careers" (careers that are easily transferred from one location to another), this program funds a maximum of $6,000 toward the cost of tuition and assorted educational expenses including supplies, certifications, and exams.

  • The Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship: Funds from this program may be used for tuition and books when the student is attending graduate or undergraduate degree programs or preparing for professional certification. The National Military Family Association (NMFA) sponsors this scholarship, which is open to spouses of active duty, Reserve, and National Guard members as well as spouses of retired or deceased U.S. Army soldiers.

  • Scholarships for Military Children Program: Under this program, each U.S. Army post exchange provides one $1,500 scholarship for tuition or books to a U.S. Army dependent. Eligibility requires the applicant be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) database.

The New GI Bill also allows active-duty U.S. Army soldiers to transfer all or some of their benefits to their spouses and children.

Spouses and children of veterans who died or were permanently and fully disabled through military service, went missing in action, or were forcibly detained by a foreign power are eligible to receive a maximum of 45 months of education benefits. Benefits can be used for a wide variety of training including degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, on-the-job training programs, and online courses.

New U.S. Army Education Benefits Program: The Yellow Ribbon Program

The Yellow Ribbon Program went into effect with the Post-9/11 GI Bill in August, 2009. This program extends GI Bill benefits by creating a partnership between the VA, university, and soldier--in the end making private school education much more affordable.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, or New GI Bill, offers benefits up to the highest in-state public undergraduate tuition rate. The Yellow Ribbon Program makes tuition more affordable for soldiers who attend private or out-of-state schools by these schools paying up to one-half of the difference between their tuition and the maximum in-state tuition that's covered by the GI Bill. The VA then matches the contribution by the Yellow Ribbon School, leaving the veteran with little or no additional tuition payment.

Yellow Ribbon Universities are willing to offer this additional benefit because veterans make excellent and dedicated students who bring real world experience to classrooms and courses. If you want to attend school out of state or go to a private university, check to see if the school is enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Program in order to maximize your benefits.

Paying for College before Serving in the Army

High school graduates looking to attend college may be able to have the U.S. Army foot the bill. The U.S. military academies and Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) offer competitive routes to U.S. Army college funding. Upon graduation from college, soldiers in these programs receive a U.S. Army officer commission and agree to a minimum of four years of active-duty service.

Soldiers receiving either a Congressional or a service-connected appointment to West Point, the most prestigious U.S. Army educational facility, complete a challenging course of study concentrating in both military and academic areas. Degrees are targeted toward the students' selected U.S. Army branch and officer career field.

The U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is based at civilian colleges and universities. While pursuing a college degree, students receive U.S. Army military training during the school year and summers.

Popular Post U.S Army Careers

Annually, the U.S. military releases over several hundred thousand members to the civilian community. These servicemen and women possess skills that are in high demand in today's job market. In addition to the special training and skills one gains through military specialties, every U.S. Army soldier possesses leadership experience, the ability to function well under stress, and the reliability and attention to detail that is desired by employers in all sectors of the economy. These traits, when coupled with advanced education and college degrees, qualify veterans for rewarding careers in any number of fields.

During the period between 2008 and 2018, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects higher-than-average employment opportunities in fields that may appeal to former military personnel, including:

  • Computer software engineering

  • Health care

  • Human resources

  • Accounting

  • Law enforcement

The Military to Civilian Job Translator is an online resource that provides information concerning how your U.S. Army training matches civilian career fields.

Post U.S. Army Career Salaries

Career fields projected for higher-than-average employment opportunities also provide solid salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, annual median wages in 2008 were:

  • Computer software engineer: $87,900

  • Health care: $82,243

  • Human resources: $96,130

  • Accountant: $59,430

  • Law enforcement: $51,410

Several occupations with varying wages exist within each of these career fields, so it's important to note that these are average salaries. Also, once armed with a university degree that you've earned with the assistance of your U.S. Army college education benefits and experience, you'll be well equipped to compete with your civilian counterparts for challenging and rewarding careers in nearly any industry or field.

Consider your U.S. Army education benefits carefully in order to plan your military advancement or return to the civilian workforce. Your education benefits can provide a major competitive advantage when it comes to seeking employment. If you are already out of the military, consider the U.S. Army educational benefits available to veterans that may help you pursue a college degree, increasing your employment opportunities, salary potential, and career enjoyment.

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