Servicemember Benefits

Each branch of the armed forces sets its own eligibility requirements and tuition benefits for the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program, to help cover the cost of tuition and fees for higher education for active duty servicemembers. The maximum benefit varies by service, subject to a $250 per credit hour cap put in place by the Department of Defense. Tuition assistance is provided by each branch, with payments sent directly to the member’s institution of higher education. It is not a loan; it is an earned benefit offered to active duty members - however, these benefits are offered at the discretion of the military branch in question subject to availability and are not an entitlement.

In recent years, tightening fiscal conditions have led some branches to restrict eligibility, benefits, or both. For example, the Coast Guard has instituted a cost-sharing policy, covering only 75% of educational expenses, up to $2200 per fiscal year. The Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army each fund Tuition Assistance up to $250 per credit hour, and have annual caps ranging from $3500 to $4500. The Army has recently reduced the annual limit to $4000 while other restrictions on degree level, GPA, and more have been implemented in other branches.

Supplementing these funds is the Tuition Assistance Top-Up program, under which each service is authorized to pay an additional portion of the cost of postsecondary courses that exceed the cost allowed under the Tuition Assistance program. This amount reduces the total payout under the MGIB-AD or Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Several branches of the military provide student loan repayment programs as enlistment incentives. Both the Army and Navy provide up to $65,000 in loan repayments to qualified applicants. The Air Force also offers a loan repayment program which provides a maximum of $10,000 in tuition payments to eligible applicants. In addition, interest rates on loans made before entering active duty are lowered to 6%, and veterans are able to defer repayment during active duty. Payments made towards student loans while in military service also count towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Additionally, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account Program provides up to $2,000 per fiscal year for a total not to exceed $4,000 in tuition and other costs for military spouses of certain pay grades. Branches of the military also provide scholarships to children of military families.

Students whose parents died because of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, but whose families are not income-eligible for Pell Grants, are eligible for Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. The award size is equal to the maximum Pell Grant award size that year.

Both current servicemembers and veterans with a service-connected disability are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services under the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E). These services include skills evaluations, career counseling, employment and job-skills training, and job seeking assistance. Veterans with severe disabilities can receive living assistance if they are fully unable to work.