The U.S. Servicemember’s Guide to Academic Programs and Aid

Current and former military servicemembers and their spouses are eligible for millions of dollars in education-related financial aid every year. If you or your family member is active duty, a reservist, or a retired veteran, you will qualify for some form of financial aid, from privileged federal loans to grants.

This is our financial aid and scholarship guide for U.S. military servicemembers. As you compare these opportunities, keep in mind that some are exclusive. Be sure to check the eligibility terms of each award to see if you can qualify and claim more than one.

Academic Programs and Resources

Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES): This Department of Defense program that supports service members in all five military branches as they pursue higher education opportunities.
Examination Programs: DANTES provides examination prep courses and administers more than 150,000 tests each year at more than 500 military installations worldwide; some of the sponsored exams include:

Troops to Teachers: This program provides educational materials, referrals, and other resources for military service members who are interested in pursuing a career in primary or secondary education. Troops to Teachers is open to any former or active military personnel whose “last period of service is characterized as honorable.” Interested parties must submit a registration form in order to receive information about certification requirements, upcoming certification exams, and job referrals; the form will ask for the following information:

  • Relevant information pertaining to vocational background, certifications, and professional licensure
  • Contact information
  • Military service record
  • Teaching/educational background
  • Referral preferences (pre-K through 12th grade)

Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC): This Department of Defense-funded consortium of 1,900 accredited higher learning institutions works to help military personnel and their families earn associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree credentials. Available academic programs and eligibility requirements for students will vary by college/university. It’s also important to note that the SOC does not provide any sort of financial assistance. However, active service members and veterans who attend SOC schools receive the following benefits:

  • Reduced credit load: Students must only complete up to 25% of the degree requirements (30% for exclusively online programs) in order to complete their academic program; this allows them to avoid any sort of “final year residency requirement.”
  • Transferability: Credits are easily transferred between SOC schools to help students avoid enrolling in duplicate courses.
  • Bonus credit: SOC students may receive credit for military training and/or experience, as well as completion of the following exams:
    • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)
    • General and Subject Examinations
    • DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST)
    • Excelsior College Examinations (ECE)

American Council on Education (ACE): The ACE has collaborated with the Department of Defense to create ‘College Credit for Military Service,’ a program that reviews the training and experience of active service members and recommends formal courses and occupations offered through the U.S. military. Web users can browse available courses and occupations featured on the site database using the following criteria:

  • ACE identification number
  • Military course number
  • Military course title
  • Training location
  • Dates completed
  • Subject/level

Joint Services Transcript (JST): The JST is a comprehensive record of a service member’s military service, training, and ACE credit recommendations that is currently recognized by more than 2,300 accredited higher learning institutions. Historically, each individual branch of the U.S. military used a different template for military personnel transcripts. Today, the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps each use the JST; the Coast Guard is in the process of adopting this transcript, while the Air Force continues to retain its original transcript format. Sample transcripts for all five branches of the military are listed below:

GoArmyEd: This organization provides technology-based centers known as Multi-use Learning Facilities (MLFs), which provide the following resources to U.S. Army veterans who want to acquire professional skills that will lead to successful careers:

  • Online registration for the Army Correspondence Course Program (ACCP)
  • Access to the Reimer Digital Library
  • A list of available “self-development courses”
  • Preparatory materials for the Non-Commissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) training, as well as web-based college programs that correspond to the College of the American Soldier’s Career NCO Degrees and Enlisted Education Programs (see below)

Career NCO Degrees Program of the College of the American Soldier: The College of the American Soldier offers resources for service members who wish to enter the Non-Commissioned Officer Education System (NCOES). The goal of the NCO Degrees Program is to build on higher education opportunities for NCOs by providing “broad preparation degree options with college credit for specific NCOES courses taken throughout their careers” that:

  • Adhere to a flexible course schedule that allows extra time for program completion
  • Allow students to easily transfer credits to accredited colleges and universities
  • Enable military personnel and veterans to earn credit for service training and experience
  • Reduce requirements pertaining to “academic residency requirements”
  • Ultimately reward graduates with a degree in business and/or management

The following academic options are offered in conjunction with the NCO Degrees Program:

Education Centers: Each branch of the U.S. military maintains its own learning and education center. You’ll find complete information about courses offered exclusively through the military, academic degree programs, financial aid, and application processes on the following homepages:

Financial Aid Awards

Navy College Fund: Title 38, United States Code, Chapter 30 enables the Navy to provide additional educational benefits for individuals who possess certain skills and are entering a rating in which there is a significant shortage. Recruits may be eligible for the NCF (at the discretion of his or her classifier) if they meet the following criteria:

  • The individual qualifies for training “in a selected Navy rating as a non-prior service enlistee”
  • He or she entered active duty on or after Nov. 21, 1989, and agrees to serve on active duty for three or more years (the duration will depend on the selected program)
  • He or she must be a high school graduate (no GED or other equivalency is accepted) with an AFQT score of 50 or higher.
  • The individual must be between 17 and 35 years old.
  • He or she must enroll in the MGIB Program and agree to pay the $1,200 pay reduction.
  • He or she must receive an “Honorable Character of Service”. This does not include “General Under Honorable Conditions.”
  • Disenrollment from the program will lead to a complete loss of benefits

Army College Fund: In order to receive educational benefits through the ACF, recruits were historically required to enroll in the MGIB at the time of enlistment. However, this program has been suspended since October 2011; it may be reinstated in the future.

Tuition Assistance: This program will cover up to $4,500 in tuition fees for all qualifying current or former Army service members enrolled in courses . Qualifications are straightforward:

  • All courses must be offered at colleges and universities that are registered with GoArmyEd and have received accreditation from an organization that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Soldiers who wish to take part in this program can follow the following steps:
    1. Request tuition assistance (TA) through GoArmyEd before the course’s start date or the institution’s late registration period. Assistance must be individually requested for each course and renewal is not automatic.
    2. Within 3-4 weeks, GoArmyEd will inform the soldier if their TA request has been approved and how to move forward. (If the request is not approved, GoArmyEd will explain why and offer alternative funding possibilities.)
  • If the soldier wants to enroll in a school that does not partner with GoArmyEd, he or she must submit a “TA Request Authorization” form. This document will be sent to an Army Education Counselor for review and approval (this process may take several more weeks). If the TA Request Authorization is approved, the soldier will be notified by email and then asked to print the approved request in GoArmyEd, submit it to his or her higher learning institution, and enroll directly with the school.
  • Soldiers who do not successfully complete a course will be required to repay the money they have received. The exception to this rule is any soldier who cannot complete his or her course(s) due to military reasons; these individuals must request a “Withdrawal for Military Reasons” through GoArmyEd in order to incur avoid incurring charges.
  • TA is capped at $250 per semester hour, or $4,500 for the fiscal year. The Army will pay all tuition until this ceiling has been reached. Total TA is limited to 130 semester hours of undergraduate credit and 39 hours of graduate-level credit; TA will end once the student has obtained a degree.

GI Bill: Originally named the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, this bill was passed in 1944 to provide financial assistance and support to war veterans who return to the U.S. and want to receive a higher education.

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill: This revised version of the GI Bill was implemented to benefit military personnel who served after Sept. 11, 2001. Through the bill, educational and housing support is provided to soldiers who served at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, or who were discharged with a service-related disability 30 days or more after the terrorist attack. The following provisions are included:
    • Tuition and registration fees for 36 months of higher education, which are generally available to military personnel up to 15 years after release from active duty; tuition rates are capped at the national maximum rate
    • The Yellow Ribbon Program is in place to provide some support for military personnel who wish to attend private schools, out-of-state schools, or other, more expensive academic programs.
    • A monthly housing allowance, as well as a one-time ‘rural benefit payment’
    • An annual stipend for books and course materials
    • The amount of time served since 9/11 will affect the amount of benefits received by the individual. Benefits will be awarded as follows:
      • 100% – 36 or more total months served since 9/10/2001
      • 100% – 30 or more consecutive days with a disability-related discharge
      • 90% – 30 total months
      • 80% – 24 total months
      • 70% – 18 total months
      • 60% – 12 total months
      • 50% – 6 total months
      • 40% – 90 or more days
  • Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD): This program provides up to 36 months of educational benefits for the following programs:
    • Academic degrees or professional certificates
    • Online coursework
    • Flight training
    • High-tech training
    • Apprenticeship or on-the-job training
    • Entrepreneurship training
    • Certain professional and licensing examinations
  • Recipients must fall into one of five categories related to the duration of their military service and service salary. The “$600 Buy-up Program” allows military personnel to contribute an additional $600 to the GI Bill in exchange for up to $5,400 additional education-related benefits; this contribution must be made while the individual is on active duty.
  • Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR): This program is open to any selected reserve personnel in any of the five main branches of the military, as well as the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, who meet the following criteria:
    • He or she has at least a six-year commitment to the Selected Reserve that was signed after June 30, 1985; officers must have agreed to serve an additional six years. In some cases, a six-year commitment that began since September 30, 1990, is required.
    • The individual must complete his or her initial active duty for training (IADT) after receiving a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
    • He or she must remain in good standing while serving in an active Selected Reserve unit; MGIB – SR is also open to individuals who were discharged from Selected Reserve service due to a disability unrelated to misconduct. The eligibility period may be extended for those who are ordered to active duty.

Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP): This program provides financial assistance for reservists of all military branches who have been “called or ordered to active duty in response to a war or national emergency (contingency operation) as declared by the President or Congress.” The $600 Buy-up Program is available for Selected Reserve, Individual Ready Reserve, or Inactive National Guard personnel who wish to participate in REAP.

Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP): This program is open to any U.S. military veteran who contributes earnings from the military to participate in the program; the government matches contributions using a $2 to $1 scheme. Benefits will provide assistance for up to 36 months, depending on how much money the veteran has contributed; individuals have up to 10 years after their release from the military to sign up for the benefits. In order to be eligible, applicants must:

  • Have begun serving for the first time between Jan. 1, 1977, and June 30, 1985
  • Opened a contribution account prior to April 1, 1987
  • Voluntarily contributed between $25 and $2,700
  • Have completed their first period of service
  • Have received a discharge or been released from service “under conditions other than dishonorable”
  • Personnel who are currently on active duty must have at least three months of contributions available to receive VEAP benefits

Educational Assistance Test Program: Also known as Section 901, the EATP is designed to increase enlistment and reenlistment in the Armed Forces. Benefits for this program are available to individuals who entered active service in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard between Sept. 30, 1980, and Oct. 1, 1981. Air Force personnel must meet the following criteria:

  • The individual entered active duty between Dec. 1, 1980, and Sept. 30, 1981
  • His or her enlistment must have been in one of the following Air Force Specialties: 20723, 20731, 20830, 46130, 46230A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, or Z, 46430, 81130
  • His or her enlistment must have taken place in one of the following locations:
    • Beckley, WV
    • Buffalo, NY
    • Dallas, TX
    • Fargo, ND
    • Houston, TX
    • Jackson, MS
    • Louisville, KY
    • Memphis, TN
    • Omaha, NE
    • Philadelphia, PA
    • Seattle, WA
    • Sioux Falls, SD
    • Syracuse, NY

Survivors & Dependents Assistance: This program provides up to 45 months of educational benefits for the dependents of veterans. As of Oct. 1, 2013, dependents may be eligible for up to 81 months of financial assistance and support. As of December 2006, these benefits are available to the son, daughter, or spouse of the following individuals:

  • A veteran who died or is disabled as the result of his or her service in the Armed Forces
  • A veteran who died as a result of his or her military-related disability
  • A servicemember who is missing in action or has been captured in line of duty by a “hostile force”
  • A servicemember who has been or was forcibly detained or interned by a foreign government or power while serving in the Armed Forces
  • A servicemember who has been hospitalized or is receiving outpatient treatment for a service-related disability and will probably receive a discharge resulting from the disability.
    • Sons or daughters of veterans must be between the ages of 18 and 26 to receive benefits; the eligibility period for a spouse is up to 10 years after the VA has determined he or she is entitled to the benefits, or up to 20 years after the servicemember is killed in the line of duty.

National Call to Service Program: This program is administered by the VA, and requires recipients to complete a “period of national service” in order to receive benefits. Eligibility is contingent on a three-step process:

  1. After completing his or her initial entry training, the individual must actively serve in a “military occupational specialty” that has been predetermined by the Secretary of Defense for a period of no less than 15 months.
  2. Following the conclusion of the specialty service, the individual must serve an additional period of active duty, or a period of 24 months in an active status in the Selected Reserve.
  3. After this period of service, the remaining period of service must be in one of the following roles:
    • Active duty in the Armed Forces
    • Selected Reserve
    • Individual Ready Reserve
    • In Americorps, or another domestic national service program approved by both the Secretary of Defense and program’s administrator
    • Individuals who complete this process will be entitled to one of the following benefits (of their choice):
    • A cash bonus of $5,000
    • Repayment of student loans up to $18,000
    • A monthly allowance of $1,034 (as of October 2005) for up to 12 months, or a monthly allowance of $480 for up to 36 months
    • Eligibility for Montgomery GI Bill Benefits

Scholarships for Active Military Personnel and Veterans

The following scholarships are available to men and women who have served and/or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

  • The ROTC provides merit-based scholarships for both outgoing high school students and currently enrolled college students who agree to concurrently fulfill obligations related to military service. The following awards are offered through the ROTC:
    • Two-, three-, and four-year scholarships (this will depend on how much time the student has left before completing his or her degree program)
    • Full-tuition scholarships
    • Room and board reimbursement in lieu of tuition assistance
    • Additional allowances for books and fees
    • Living expenses that depend on how much of the ROTC program the student has completed; these expenses are also available to cadets who enroll full-time in the Army ROTC Advanced Course. Financial support is awarded as follows:
      • First year students receive $300 per month
      • Second year students receive $350 per month
      • Third year students receive $450 per month
      • Fourth year students receive $500 per month
    • Scholarships are also available through the ROTC for military chaplains and health professionals.

Fisher House Foundation Scholarships for Military Children: This program evaluates applications received at every participating military commissary throughout the U.S., and awards one $2,000 scholarship per location; if funding is available, more than one scholarship per commissary may be awarded. The deadline for applying for this scholarship is Jan. 22; monies may be used to cover the following expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Books
  • Lab materials
  • Administrative fees

Army Staff Sgt. Special Agent Richard S. Eaton Jr., Scholarship: Named after a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent who was killed in Iraq in 2003 and posthumously received the Bronze Star, this scholarship awards $1,000 to applicants who are planning to pursue a degree in one of the following academic fields. Completed applications must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2014.

  • Alliance Building
  • Counterintelligence
  • Cultural Understanding
  • National Security Studies

American Patriot Scholarship: This scholarship is open to students who are 24 years or younger, and have at least one parent who served as active duty or reserve military personnel, in the U.S. National Guard, and was either killed in the line of duty or received a permanent disability as a result of their service. Military cadets are ineligible for this award. The scholarship awards a one-time sum of $2,500 to applicants who are selected; the deadline to submit applications is March 1.

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation: This organization awarded more than 1,900 scholarships during the 2012-13 academic year. The scholarship is open to children with at least one parent who:

  • Is an active duty or reserve U.S. Marine
  • Is a veteran who received an honorable discharge, medical discharge, or was wounded or killed while serving as a U.S. Marine
  • Is an active duty or reserve U.S. Navy Corpsman who has served with a U.S. Marine unit
  • Is a veteran U.S. Navy Corpsman who has served with a U.S. Marine unit and has received an honorable discharge, medical discharge, was wounded, or was killed while serving with the U.S. Navy.

Other criteria include:

  • Plans to attend an accredited undergraduate program in the upcoming academic year and pursue his or her first bachelor’s degree or technical certificate. Students attending Federal Service Academies and graduate students are not eligible.
  • The applicant’s family adjusted gross income for the 2012 tax year may not exceed $91,000. (This does not include non-taxable allowances).
  • Cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • All applications must be received by March 1 prior to the academic year for which the applicant wishes to receive financial assistance.

Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program for Children of the Fallen: This award (also sponsored by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation) awards scholarships valued up to $30,000 for four years of academic study (or $7,500 per school year). Deadline for applications is March 1 prior to the academic year for which the applicant wishes to receive assistance; the following individuals are eligible to receive the scholarship:

  • Children of active duty, reserve, and veteran Marines who were killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001
  • Children of Marines and/or Navy Corpsmen attached to a Marine unit who were killed in combat after Sept. 11, 2001;
  • Children of Navy Religious Program Specialists attached to a Marine unit who were killed in combat on or after Sept. 27, 2008
  • Children of Marines who were killed in training after Sept. 27, 2008

Air Force Aid Society Merit Scholarship: This $5,000 award is open to “incoming freshman who have completed both phases of the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant application”; this form will serve as an evaluation of their academic performance. Applicants are selected based on the following criteria:

  • GPA
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • High school transcripts
  • Extracurricular activities, volunteer, and employment résumé
  • Their response to an essay on a specified topic

Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance: This organization provides three options for current or former U.S. Navy or Marine Corps personnel and their spouses and children who wish to obtain an academic degree at an accredited, post-secondary institution.

Enlisted Education Program: Also offered through the College of the American Soldier, the EEP provides associate degree opportunities for “entry-level soldiers in Combat Arms MOSs in Career Management Fields (CMFs) 11 Infantry, 13 Field Artillery, 14 Air Defense Artillery, and 19 Armor” during their first term of their respective enlistment. College and university programs that take part in the EEP must:

  • Accept “ACE recommended credit” for basic training, advanced individual training, one station unit training, structured self-development, and warrior leader courses.
  • Provide Associate of Arts, Science, and General Studies degrees
  • Relax academic residency requirements for students in the program
  • Offer courses that are transferable to other higher learning institutions
  • Evaluate participating students’ educational and professional background prior to enrollment

The following academic options are offered in conjunction with the Enlisted Education Program:

Women’s Memorial Foundation Scholarship Program: This award is administered by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. Each recipient will be awarded $500 intended to cover costs incurred during a bachelor’s or master’s degree program at an accredited higher learning institution. Two individual scholarships are awarded:

  • The Kelley Scholarship is reserved for female students who are concentrating on a technical field, such as computer science, business management, or finance.
  • The Ellerman Scholarship is awarded to female recipients in any academic field.

In either case, applicants must show a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25, demonstrate financial need, and have served in one of the five main military branches, National Guard, or Merchant Marines. Additionally, applicants must register with the Women’s Memorial Foundation. All applications must be received by Dec. 15.

National Association for Uniformed Services Scholarship Program: Every year, NAUS awards a handful of $2,500 scholarship awards to qualified applicants who meet the following criteria (eight were dispersed during the 2012-13 academic year):

  • Active membership in the NAUS, or the spouse or child of an active member
  • Enrollment in or acceptance into a full- or part-time undergraduate or professional certification program at an accredited higher learning institution.
  • If part-time, the applicant must record at least 24 credit hours annually, or 12 per semester.

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