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Pursuing an Education While Enlisted with Tuition Assistance

Ninety percent of servicemembers enter the armed forces for the educational benefits. However, only 50 percent actually use their educational benefits. Here are some compelling reasons why military personnel should seriously consider continuing their education:

  • Those people with high school diplomas have a median annual income of $27,915; those with bachelor's degrees earn $51,206. A college graduate earns 45 percent more than a high school graduate.

  • Your military experience may have earned you college credit. The American Council on Education (ACE) has established guidelines for evaluating military credit. It is important that you find out if the college you want to attend will award military credit. (See below.)

  • Continuing education is more flexible than ever. Thirty years ago going to college part time was the exception today it is the rule. More than 60 percent of today's college students are part-time students, and 10 percent of all college students take online courses. Online education is becoming the wave of the future. A survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. revealed that 54 percent of working adults believe that college courses offered via the Internet are the future of higher education.

Military-Friendly Online Degrees

Although the GI Bill provides money for education after you leave the service, you still can pursue your education while serving in the armed forces.

Tuition Assistance Program
The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) Program is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has authorized each service to pay up to 100 percent of the tuition expenses of its members.

  • Each service has its own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, application process, and restrictions. TA money is usually paid directly to the institution by the individual services.

  • Additionally, active-duty members may elect to use the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) "top-up" in addition to their service-provided TA to cover high-cost courses.

  • TA is not a loan; is money you have earned, just like your base pay.

Starting April 1, 2006, Soldiers will request TA and enroll in courses online. This will assist in expediting the enrollment process and minimize wait times at Army Education Centers. Soldiers will request TA online through the ACES portal called GoArmyEd.

Credit for your Military Experience
Your military service likely has earned you college credit. Many schools and colleges award military students credit toward a degree based on training, coursework, and occupational specialty.

Military-Friendly Online Education

Officers' Benefits for Education
Junior officers and enlisted technicians with master's degrees are some of the most sought-after employees by corporate America. Over a lifetime, individuals with master's degrees earn 46 percent more than those with undergraduate degrees.

The Army Tuition Assistance (TA) Program provides financial assistance for voluntary off-duty education programs in support of a soldier's professional and personal self-development goals. The program is open to all soldiers (officers, warrant officers, enlisted) on active duty, and Army National Guard and Army Reserve on active duty.

The maximum amount paid for tuition assistance:

  • 100% Tuition and Fees

    Not to exceed:

  • $250 @ Semester Credit Hour, or

  • $166 @ Quarter Credit Hour, and

  • $4,500 @ Fiscal Year

Application Process
There are just a few steps to follow when using Army tuition assistance:

  • Talk with a counselor, at the nearest Education Center, to declare an educational goal and create an educational plan.

  • The counselor will provide the soldier with a DA Form 2171-E, Request for Tuition Assistance - Army Continuing Education System, for a specific course or courses.

  • The counselor will explain TA procedures, requirement for TA reimbursements, and, if necessary, officer/commissioned warrant officer active duty service obligation.

  • Then the counselor will have the soldier sign a Statement of Understanding for Army Tuition, which verifies the soldier understands his/her TA benefits and obligations.

  • In accordance with AR 621-5, the soldier obtains the unit commander's or authorized representative's signature on the DA Form 2171.

  • The soldier will return the DA Form 2171 to the Education Center prior to course enrollment for the education services officer's signature.

  • The soldier will take the DA Form 2171 to the appropriate college representative for course enrollment.

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