Find Military Benefits that Maximize your Education Options
By: Lt. Col Paul Capicik, USAF (ret.),
VP Military Programs, American Sentinel University
Military educational benefits are often one of the top reasons for choosing a military career. But how do you find, use and maximize those benefits?
This three-part article series will outline benefits that are available.
TA benefits for active-duty military
For an active duty member, Tuition Assistance (TA) is one of the great benefits awarded to the military. Its availability usually starts within the first few years of a member’s service, often soon after basic training and possibly after initial career training.
TA currently provides $4,500 each fiscal year (October 1 – September 30). If you don’t use up your TA in that fiscal year, that block of money is gone forever! It does not roll over or accumulate. If you leave the service before completing your educational goal, that money is left behind.
What TA can do for you
In the undergraduate arena, many colleges charge around $250 per credit hour; some charge less, some more – be sure to ask. That means, estimating three credit hours per course, you can take six or so courses per year with little or no out-of-pocket expenses.
Think about this: staying in the service four years gives you access to about $13,500 (depending on your service). That’s enough to pay for an Associate degree, complete a Bachelor’s, or perhaps even start a Master’s. Staying in for a career (20 years) gives you access to about $85,000. That can easily pay for a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree.
Career training courses
In addition to TA, service members also have access to numerous military training courses that cost you nothing, but can be applied as transfer credits.
Education benefits for veterans
Veteran Administration (VA) education benefits are significant, complex in nature, and can be used while on active duty, as a National Guard or Reserve member, and when you leave or retire from the military. Here are several of the VA educational benefit programs:
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
- Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
- Educational Assistance Test Program (Section 901)
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)
- National Call to Service Program
You should always discuss the pros and cons of using these various benefits with a VA representative. Remember, the rules for their use are complex, so only a VA representative can verify under what circumstances you can maximize their use.
In addition to your Federal benefits, military-friendly schools like American Sentinel University also provide various military-specific education benefits that can save several thousand dollars over the course of the degree program, such as:
- o Reduced tuition rates (helps your TA money go further)
o Reduction and/or outright elimination of various fees, such as application, transfer credit evaluation, and graduation fees
o No-cost books
o Spouse benefits
Another source of educational funding for the military can be your home state. While this is often restricted to National Guard members, it can pertain to other branches of service. The benefit may be restricted for use in state-funded schools in your state of residence.
Other sources of benefits
Finally, there are other sources of funding and services: some apply in specific situations or may apply to a member’s family. These include:
- o Education Service Offices and counselors – can help you evaluate schools and programs
o School military advisors – can help you succeed in your chosen program.
o Military-friendly schools – can provide specific military assistance of various forms. For instance, American Sentinel University provides regular articles, webinars and military liaison staff that help students make appropriate career, industry and degree program decisions
o Severely Injured Scholarships – offered by schools including American Sentinel University.
o MyCAA – TA funding available to spouses of active-duty members (a $6,000 benefit is currently on hold pending review.) American Sentinel is an approved school for this program.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. By investigating further what benefits are available and their parameters for use, you will be better equipped to:
- o Make decisions that will help you maximize these benefits
o Minimize out-of-pocket expenses
o Reach various educational objectives that will positively influence your promotion potential, transition to the civilian world, and quality of life.
Always remember: education, certifications, and experience are the three important keys to success. Your educational benefits can help you attain the first two.
Look for Part II of this series, “Using Military Education Benefits Effectively,” and Part III, “Avoiding Incidental Education Disasters” by Lt. Col. Paul Capacik, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) as well as his webinar on military education benefits.
What questions do you have about military education benefits? Please post your thoughts and questions to our blog or contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free 1-800-470-3743.