Military veterans and active-duty service members have access to multiple benefits in higher education, including financial aid and academic credit for military and work experience. Some are known for their military friendly benefits, with specific support services for individuals and families, but all schools at least include GI Bill benefits and other federal programs.
What is the GI Bill?
Started in 1944, the GI Bill is the longest-running financial aid program for military veterans and active-duty service members of the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard – in fact, it was the first federal financial aid program offered by the United States.
Since its inception, the GI Bill has undergone several revisions, including the most recent Post-9/11 GI Bill (implemented in August 2009), which expanded educational benefits for military and service members with more than 90 days of duty after September 11, 2001, including coverage for a living allowance, money for books, and the ability to transfer unused academic benefits to children and spouses. With nearly three-quarters of a million benefactors, the Post-9/11 GI Bill operates on a sliding benefits scale, with those with at least 36 months of service receiving the maximum benefits (30 days of continuous service discharge due to service related disability receive 100% of benefits as well).
For a comprehensive review of GI Bill benefits and eligibility information, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Related Financial Aid Programs for Military Personal and Veterans
Military tuition assistance is also available from the following programs:
- Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD): Also known as Chapter 30, the Montgomery GI Bill offers benefits for veterans and service members with at least 2 years of active duty. Usually available for up to 10 years after service, a $600 buy-up program is also available, allowing recipients to earn increased monthly benefits.
- Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): Similar to the above but designed for members of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.
- Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (YRRP): While the GI Bill covers public school expenses, the YRRP offers additional funds to cover private school expenses without additional charges to GI Bill entitlement (note that schools must agree to participate in the program for funding to be available). Established in 2008, the Yellow Ribbon program has benefited over 1.4 million service members.
- Veterans Education Assistance Program: With the Veterans Education Assistance Program, eligible recipients can direct funds from military pay to be placed in a post-service education account in which the government matches dollar contributions on a 2-for-1 rate
In addition to college degree and certificate programs, many of the above benefits can also be applied to technical or vocational courses, entrepreneurship training, certain entrance examinations, and other career-oriented courses and training exercises. Be sure to check state programs for other benefits: Texas, for instance, offers numerous university military benefits.
Student Loan Options for Military Personnel
If you have student loans and are considering enlisting in the military, you might want to review the Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP), which offers to repay a portion of eligible college loans for non-prior service military members. Still, because of the programs’s complex nature, individuals should consult rules carefully. Congress has capped individual payments at $65,000, but different services have different caps (lower than $65k), and the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer CLRP benefits.
Also of note is that eligibility typically requires at least three years of service (Army); in some cases, the minimum could be up to six years (some reserve forces). CLRP recipients are also not eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill during the same enlistment period unless they are members of the Reserves and National Guard. To earn GI benefits, CLRP military personnel would have to wait up to 30 months into the second enlistment.
University Credit for Military and Work Experience
Some military friendly universities offer academic credit for veterans and active duty military, accelerating course work, lowering costs, and creating a tangible thank-you to service members and their families. Each university policy differs, but some of the more generous transfer policies allow more than half of credit requirements to be waived. For undergraduate degrees, you may be able to waive general education requirements and focus exclusively on the major, cutting a significant percentage of credits. Consult each university and ask an enrollment representative about potential credits.
Affordable Education Alternatives for Military Personnel and Veterans
If you’re looking for more opportunities to reduce tuition – or perhaps looking to combine military financial aid with generally affordable and military friendly degrees – you might consider pursuing an online degree. First, many universities that offer online programs cater to military veterans and service members and might include additional funding packages and benefits. Online degrees also tend to be more affordable thanks to accelerated tracks (lowering degree completion time) and eliminating room-and-board expenses. Some universities specialize in affordable online degrees, and Christian universities also tend to offer special military benefits. Additionally, many universities offer reduced tuition rates for servicemembers. Just make sure to check with schools you might be interested in to take full advantage of this benefit. Not sure what school’s you’re interested in? Check out our ranking of the 25 best online military-friendly universities today.