Military Times

2012 Benefits Handbook

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Education

MILITARY EDUCATION — PERSONAL

DANTES

The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support provides service members with educational opportunities outside the classroom. DANTES services are available at nearly all education centers on base. Most are free and available to active-duty and reserve personnel and their adult family members. Services include:

College credit for skills. Service members can earn college credit for knowledge and skills they already have. The American Council on Education evaluates military training and job experience and publishes course descriptions and college credit recommendations.

Distance learning courses. DANTES has agreements with about 150 institutions to support service member enrollment in distance learning programs. DANTES Independent Study and External Degree catalogs, available in base education offices, contain program descriptions.

General Educational Development. The GED test leads to a high school equivalency certificate. All services pay the full cost to obtain a high school certificate for their active-duty members.

Contact: 850-452-1111, ext. 3150, or DSN 922-1111, ext. 3150; www.dantes.doded.mil

MONTGOMERY GI BILL — ACTIVE DUTY

Although attention in recent years has focused on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the older Montgomery GI Bill program remains in full effect and, for some people, may offer better benefits.

Monthly benefits vary based on the type of training taken, length of service and other factors. The current maximum payment under the Montgomery GI Bill is $1,473.

There are some big differences between the new and old GI Bill programs, beginning with the fact that to use the Montgomery GI Bill, service members must pay an enrollment fee of $1,200, made in forfeitures of basic pay of $100 a month for the first year of service.

The $1,200 enrollment fee is refundable if a service member dies while on active duty or within a year of leaving active duty without having used any GI Bill benefits. In such cases, the fee is returned without interest to the next of kin.

Refunds of the $1,200 also are available to some people who pay for Montgomery GI Bill benefits but end up using the Post-9/11 GI Bill instead. For anyone who uses all 36 months of Post-9/11 GI Bill payments, the final living stipend will include an extra $1,200, representing a refund, without interest, for the Montgomery GI Bill enrollment fee. Refunds will not be available to anyone who does not use the full 36 months of benefits.

In most cases, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is more generous than the Montgomery GI Bill, but there are reasons to use the older program. In cases where college tuition is very low or free and housing costs are low, the Montgomery GI Bill — which pays the service member or veteran rather than the school — might result in a bigger payment.

The Montgomery GI Bill also pays for apprenticeships and on-the-job training, flight training and correspondence classes. Eligibility to use Montgomery GI Bill benefits expires 10 years from the date of separation, five years less than under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Interval pay. As of Aug. 1, 2011, break (or interval) pay is no longer payable under the Montgomery GI Bill except during times when your school is closed under presidential executive order or during an emergency such as a natural disaster. For example, if your fall term ends Dec. 15 and your spring term begins Jan. 10, your January housing allowance will cover 15 days in December and your February housing allowance will cover 21 days in January.

Contact: www.gibill.va.gov

MONTGOMERY GI BILL — SELECTED RESERVE

Reservists now can receive a maximum of $345 per month as full-time students, and must have made at least a six-year commitment to the Selected Reserve, signed after June 30, 1985, and otherwise fulfill their service requirements.

In some cases, the Selected Reserve GI Bill can be used before or after Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits but never at the same time. An example, VA officials said, is that someone could use the Post-9/11 GI bill to get an electrical engineering degree at a two-year community college and then enroll in an apprenticeship program using the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve.

Interval pay. As of Aug. 1, 2011, break (or interval) pay is no longer payable under the Montgomery GI Bill except during times when your school is closed under presidential executive order or during an emergency such as a natural disaster. For example, if your fall term ends Dec. 15 and your spring term begins Jan. 10, your January housing allowance will cover 15 days in December and your February housing allowance will cover 21 days in January.

Contact: www.gibill.va.gov

POST-9/11 GI BILL

The popular new education benefits program, launched in 2009, underwent a two-phased facelift in August and October 2011, but the core elements remain the same.

♦ Tuition and fees are set to fully cover the cost of a four-year public college or university education for in-state students. At private institutions and for students paying out-of-state tuition, the program covers up to $17,500 a year in tuition and fees under a simplified formula designed to make the program easier to understand and administer.

♦ Initially designed to cover only classes at degree-granting institutions, the Post-9/11 GI Bill now also covers vocational, apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, just as the Montgomery GI Bill does.

♦ Benefits can be shared with a spouse and children in return for a commitment to spend four more years in service.

♦ Monthly living stipends are available for students attending classes at traditional schools and at a reduced rate for distance learners, with payments prorated based on their course load.

♦ There is a $1,000-a-year allowance for books, which has been extended to active-duty members and their spouses, along with a $2,000 allowance for tutoring and an allowance to cover the cost of academic and professional tests that can be used for multiple tests.

Eligibility. Eligibility is based on the length of active service since Sept. 10, 2001, with a minimum requirement of 30 days of continuous service if discharged for a service-connected disability and an aggregate of 90 days of service with an honorable or hardship discharge for everyone else. Active service for National Guard members mobilized under state authority for natural disasters or homeland security, and for those on full-time active duty, counts toward eligibility for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The amount of benefits received is prorated based on length of service, with maximum payments available to those who have 36 or more months of active service or who were discharged for a service-connected disability after 30 consecutive days of service. Those with one year of active service receive 50 percent of maximum benefits, while those with two years of service receive 80 percent.

Service members and veterans who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill may also be eligible for other veterans education benefits, including the Montgomery GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. They may choose to use the newer program.

Tuition. The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides full tuition and fees for those paying in-state residency rates for undergraduate studies for those who have earned a 100 percent benefit, with a reduced percentage for those with reduced eligibility.

For private schools and for nonresident students at public schools, the revised program reimburses tuition and fees up to $17,500 a year, with a few students who were enrolled in college prior to Jan. 4, 2011, allowed to receive slightly higher payments if they are attending classes in Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Texas. Students in those states were grandfathered so they do not receive less money than they would have before the single nationwide cap was in effect.

Tuition and fee payments to schools now are reduced by the amount of scholarships or other aid for which a student qualifies.

Yellow Ribbon. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also features a “Yellow Ribbon” program, which has become more important with the adoption of a nationwide cost cap in place of state-by-state caps. Out-of-state students and those attending private and graduate schools may receive extra tuition above the normal cap for their states. Schools must enter into voluntary agreements with VA to take part in this program.

Living stipend. Monthly living stipends, based on military housing allowance for an E-5 with dependents for the ZIP code of the campus, are calculated based on the number of credits taken and whether a student takes all classes by distance learning or has at least one on-campus class.

No one receives this payment unless attending school at least half time. The average living stipend in 2012 for a full-time student taking a full course load that includes at least one course in a classroom is $1,368 a month. The average stipend for a full-time student taking only distance learning classes is $684 a month.

Active-duty service members and their spouses are ineligible for living stipends because the government already is providing either government housing or a housing allowance to them. But children of active-duty members using transferred benefits may receive living stipends, even if they are living at home with their parents.

Book allowance. The program provides an annual $1,000 allowance for books and supplies. Effective in 2011, active-duty service members and their spouses using transferred benefits are eligible for this benefit.

Transferring benefits to family members. Basic rules for transferring benefits remain the same: A member must have served at least six years to share benefits with a spouse and 10 years to share benefits with a child, and must agree to serve a minimum of four more years. Effective in 2011, active-duty members of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are eligible to transfer benefits.

Time limits. Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits may be used while in the service and within 15 years after discharge or retirement. The 15-year post-service cutoff also applies to spouses using transferred benefits. Children using transferred benefits lose eligibility at age 26.

Interval pay. As of Aug. 1, 2011, break (or interval) pay is no longer payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill except during times when your school is closed under presidential executive order or during an emergency such as a natural disaster. For example, if your fall term ends Dec. 15 and your spring term begins Jan. 10, your January housing allowance will cover 15 days in December and your February housing allowance will cover 21 days in January.

Contact: www.gibill.va.gov

RESERVE EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

REAP is a special program created for National Guard and reserve members mobilized for at least 90 consecutive days since Sept. 10, 2001, in support of qualifying contingency operations. Monthly benefits depend on the length of service, with rates set as a percentage of Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty rates.

The maximum payment for consecutive service of two or more years is $1,178.40 per month, 80 percent of the MGIB active-duty rate. For those with consecutive service of more than one year but less than two, payment is $883.80 per month, 60 percent of the MGIB rate. The minimum payment for full-time students is $589.20 per month, 40 percent of the MGIB rate, for those with continuous service of 90 days to one year.

The maximum 80 percent rate also is available to reserve-component members who served multiple mobilizations cumulatively totaling three years or more.

Proportionately lower payments are made to those attending school less than full time.

Those released from active duty with less than 90 days of service because of a line-of-duty injury, illness or disease qualify for 40 percent of the active-duty rate.

REAP pays for college and university classes, vocational courses, flight training, independent study and distance learning, correspondence courses, on-the-job and apprenticeship courses, and programs and entrepreneurship training.

Interval pay. As of Aug. 1, 2011, break (or interval) pay is no longer payable under REAP except during times when your school is closed under presidential executive order or during an emergency such as a natural disaster. For example, if your fall term ends Dec. 15 and your spring term begins Jan. 10, your January housing allowance will cover 15 days in December and your February housing allowance will cover 21 days in January.

Contact: www.gibill.va.gov

BUY-UP PROGRAM

Students using either version of the Montgomery GI Bill or the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (see above) may be eligible for VA’s "Buy-Up" program, under which additional benefits may be purchased. The maximum contribution is $600 for $5,400 in additional benefits.

SERVICEMEMBERS OPPORTUNITY COLLEGES

The SOC Consortium of more than 1,900 educational institutions supports military students and their family members at the postsecondary level. Consortium member institutions commit to: reasonable transfer of credit; reduced academic residency requirements; use of the ACE Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services to evaluate and award academic credit for military training and experience where applicable to degree programs; and to award credit for at least one nationally recognized testing program.

The SOC Degree Network System is a subset of the SOC Consortium. Made up of SOC Army Degrees (SOCAD), SOC Navy Degrees (SOCNAV), SOC Marine Corps Degrees (SOCMAR), and SOC Coast Guard Degrees (SOCCOAST), colleges and universities selected by the services help troops and their adult family members complete associate and bachelorís degrees by adopting policies that in some aspects exceed those of the larger SOC Consortium.

In addition, a partnership between the Army Recruiting Command and participating SOC Consortium institutions, called the Concurrent Admissions Program for Army Enlistees (ConAP), provides new Army enlistees with information about available education benefits and helps them establish a relationship with a SOC Consortium institution at the time of enlistment.

Contact: www.soc.aascu.org

SERVICE PROGRAMS — AIR FORCE

Air Force Voluntary Education Branch. The branch oversees Air Force education centers and counselors, administration of tuition assistance, testing and related services.

Airman Commissioning Programs. Individuals seeking commissioning opportunities should contact their Force Support Squadron, Education and Training Sections, for help with their application packages. Current commissioning programs are:

♦ Airman Education and Commissioning Program. This program is open to active-duty airmen wishing to pursue a bachelor’s degree in high-need academic majors as identified by the secretary of the Air Force. Maximum program participation cannot exceed 36 months. AECP students complete their degrees at a college or university with an AFROTC detachment or a cross-town agreement, then attend Officer Training School to be commissioned as a second lieutenant upon completion of OTS. Graduating nurse applicants are commissioned as Nurse Corps officers and will attend commissioned officer training only after successfully passing their National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN.

♦ Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program. This program is a specialized AECP track open to active-duty airmen wishing to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. NECP follows AECP guidelines, with a maximum program participation of 24 months.

♦ AFROTC Airman Scholarship and Commissioning Program. ASCP offers active-duty enlisted personnel the opportunity to earn a commission while completing a bachelor’s degree as an Air Force ROTC cadet. Two- and four-year scholarships are available. Participants receive payment for tuition and fees up to $15,000 per year, an annual textbook allowance and a monthly stipend when the scholarship is activated. AFROTC scholarships do not pay for room and board.

♦ AFROTC Professional Officer Course Early Release Program. POC-ERP is an avenue for airmen to attend college in order to finish earning a bachelor’s degree. It allows airmen with no more than two years of college remaining to apply for early release from active duty to pursue a commission through AFROTC. Selected applicants attend college full time at universities offering AFROTC.

♦ Leaders Encouraging Airman Development. LEAD gives unit and wing commanders authority to nominate highly qualified airmen to become officers through attendance at the Air Force Academy. Depending on their qualifications, nominees may gain direct entry to the academy, entry to the academy’s Preparatory School or referral to other programs.

♦ Scholarships for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC. SOAR empowers major command and wing commanders to select outstanding airmen to receive two- or four-year scholarships to a college or university offering AFROTC. The program offers annual scholarships, which are allocated to major commands, field operating agencies and direct reporting units. Participants must separate from active duty to accept the scholarships and enroll in AFROTC.

Contact: Base education and training sections or www.afrotc.com/scholarships

Community College of the Air Force. The college, open to enlisted active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members, has full regional accreditation. It offers 67 associate degree programs in five career areas: aircraft and missile maintenance (nine), allied health (20), electronics and telecommunications (eight), logistics and resources (nine), and public and support services (21).

To earn two-year degrees, students combine Air Force technical training, professional military education and general education credits from accredited colleges and universities.

Contact: www.au.af.mil/au/ccaf

Academic Testing Program. Each base education office has a testing office to provide free tests such as the College Level Education Program, or CLEP, to airmen. Satisfactory test scores are a way for airmen to bypass some resident courses.

Contact: Base education and training section.

Academic Counseling Program. Each base education office has professionals to help airmen choose schools and degree programs. Counseling and interest assessment tests are free to airmen.

Contact: Base education and training section

SERVICE PROGRAMS — ARMY

Army Career Degrees. This program takes the Army’s version of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges to a greater degree of specificity, with degree options matched to career management fields and military occupational specialties. Because many soldiers decide to make the Army a career at the end of their first enlistment, information about this program is presented upon their graduation from advanced individual training or during their first Noncommissioned Officer Education System course. Soldiers can complete ACD programs via distance learning, classroom settings or by learning assessment.

Contact: www.soc.aascu.org/socad/ACD.html, or an Army education center counselor.

Army College Fund. The ACF is an enlistment incentive designed to help recruit soldiers into critical or short-staffed military occupational specialties. It works in tandem with the Montgomery GI Bill; soldiers cannot use the ACF without being eligible for the GI Bill. Amounts vary based on length of enlistment. To qualify, soldiers must enroll before entering active service.

Contact: www.goarmyed.com or an Army recruiter.

Army Continuing Education System. ACES centers in the U.S. and overseas sponsor a variety of programs for high school completion, college and vocational-technical courses, nontraditional programs and testing services.

Contact: www.goarmyed.com, or local post education centers.

Army/American Council on Education Registry Transcript System. This popular service for active-duty Army, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers generates an official transcript that reflects military education and training, job experience and educational testing achievements, with the college credits recommended for each by the American Council on Education.

The transcript provides prospective colleges and civilian employers with a means to evaluate a soldierís achievements. The transcripts are free and can be used to gain academic credits when applying for college or enrolling in a vocational-technical school.

Contact: Get a transcript request form and other information at http://aarts.army.mil. For questions about AARTS, email hrc.tagd.aarts@conus.army.mil.

College of the American Soldier. This program works in conjunction with GoArmyEd and colleges that offer degrees under the Career Noncommissioned Officer Degrees Program. CAS expands on degree choices to provide career NCOs with varied options that are not tied to their career management field and MOS. It is designed to be flexible in terms of degree completion times, liberal rules allowing credit transfers between the 12 participating colleges, and awarding credit for military training and education.

Contact: www.goarmyed.com/public/public_cas.aspx or an Army education center counselor.

Credentialing Opportunities On-Line. COOL is a website that provides information about how soldiers can earn civilian certificates and licenses related to their military occupational specialty. About 85 percent of the Army’s enlisted specialties have directly applicable civilian credentials. Soldiers and veterans can use up to $2,000 of their Montgomery GI Bill money to pay for licensure and certification exams. Under the sergeant and staff sergeant promotion system, soldiers can get up to 50 promotion points for earning technical certifications related to their military occupational specialty.

Contact: https://www.cool.army.mil or an Army education center counselor.

eArmyU. An online program launched in 2001, eArmyU enables eligible soldiers to work toward college degrees and certificates "anytime, anywhere" at 25 regionally accredited colleges and universities offering 145 certificate and degree programs.

Through eArmyU, soldiers can earn a certificate or an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree from a home college while taking courses from multiple colleges. Web-based courses offer unique "anytime, anywhere" flexibility, allowing soldiers to study at times that are most convenient for them — even as their schedules and duty assignments change.

The program provides comprehensive support services, including mentors, a 24-hour help desk, an Internet service provider, an email account and 100 percent tuition assistance, and books and course fees, up to normal tuition assistance limits. The free laptop option for this program no longer is available.

Contact: www.goarmyed.com/public/public_earmyu-about_earmyu.aspx

Green to Gold. There are two options to this program, which is designed to offer enlisted soldiers with at least two years of active duty an opportunity to earn an Army commission as a second lieutenant.

The scholarship option is for soldiers who want to compete for a two-, three- or four-year ROTC scholarship. Applicants must be under age 31, have a GT score of 110 or better, and meet all requirements for a commission and a bachelor’s degree.

The scholarship pays tuition or room-and-board support; money for textbooks, supplies and equipment; and a monthly stipend for living expenses for up to 10 months each school year. Participants incur a four-year active-duty service obligation.

A nonscholarship version is available to soldiers who have at least two years of college, and can earn a degree in less than two years using their Montgomery GI Bill and Army College Fund benefits. Participants incur a three-year active-duty service obligation.

A second Green to Gold option is for soldiers with at least two years of college credits who want to stay on active duty while they complete their undergraduate or graduate degree requirements.

While in the program for up to 24 months, soldiers continue to draw active-duty pay. If qualified, they can use their GI Bill and Army College Fund benefits.

Contact: www.goarmy.com/rotc/enlisted_soldiers.jsp, or an education center counselor or an Army ROTC professor of military science.

SERVICE PROGRAMS — COAST GUARD

Coast Guard Institute. Programs are available to active-duty members, reservists, spouses and civilian employees.

Military training and experience are converted to college credit recommended by the American Council on Education. The credit is reflected in an unofficial assessment and degree plan.

Official transcripts are available upon request. Participants can expect general guidance toward a degree completion plan and documentation of military-related training and experience. Services must be requested prior to separation or retirement.

Contact: 405-954-7232 or 405-954-7238; www.uscg.mil/hq/cgi/

Pre-commissioning Program for Enlisted Personnel. This competitive program allows selected Coast Guard enlisted members to complete a bachelor’s degree, attend Officer Candidate School and receive a Coast Guard commission. The Coast Guard pays all tuition, books and lab fees, in addition to regular pay and allowances.

Participants must meet the following criteria:

♦ Be at least 21 years old but under 33 as of Sept. 30 of the fiscal year of the selection panel date.

♦ Be a Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve member on active duty in paygrade E-4 or above. They must have at least four years of active service, at least two of them in the Coast Guard.

♦ Have qualifying scores on the SAT (1100 on the math and verbal), ACT (composite score of 23) and ASVAB (109 on the general technical portion; test scores prior to July 1, 2004, require a minimum of 110 on the general technical portion).

♦ Provide official transcripts from any colleges attended.

♦ Have a minimum GPA of 2.5.

♦ Submit a letter of acceptance from the school they wish to attend.

♦ Be able to complete the bachelor’s degree in two years.

Contact: www.gocoastguard.com/find-your-fit/officer-opportunities/programs

SERVICE PROGRAMS — MARINE CORPS AND NAVY

Seaman to Admiral-21. The STA-21 commissioning program is designed to create a fair system for sailors to receive an undergraduate college education and become commissioned officers. Enlisted personnel must meet eligibility guidelines.

Those who are selected receive a maximum of 36 months of full-time, year-round study to complete a bachelor’s degree. Participants remain on active duty while attending college and receive an education voucher of up to $10,000 per year to cover tuition, fees and books. STA-21 participants also become members of the Navy ROTC unit at an NROTC institution and drill with NROTC midshipmen.

Contact: 850-452-9563 or DSN 922-9563; https://www.sta-21.navy.mil

Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. This program provides an opportunity for outstanding enlisted Marines on active duty to complete their college degree program and become officers. Eligible Marines must meet the following criteria:

♦ Hold the rank of corporal or above.

♦ Be at least 20 years old but not yet 26 by July 1 of the year applying.

♦ Be ranked in the top 50 percent of their high school graduating class, or pass the GED certificate test with a minimum score of 75 percent on each test.

♦ Have an SAT score of 1000 or above.

Selectees will attend 10 weeks of preparatory training in San Diego. Marines must pay tuition and other education costs and may use the GI Bill and other benefits but not tuition assistance.

Students must agree to re-enlist or extend so they have at least six years of obligation left when they enter college. While in the program, Marines are promoted noncompetitively as soon as they become eligible for the next enlisted rank. Upon completing the program, commissioned officers are required to serve at least four years on active duty.

Marine Corps Lifelong Learning. This organization oversees the education centers and counselors, administration of tuition assistance, testing and all other voluntary education services for the Marine Corps.

The organization also is responsible for delivery of voluntary education programs and services to the Marine Corps community, including counseling, tuition assistance, testing, apprenticeship, Sailor Marine American Registry Transcript, Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Marine Corps, Deployment Program, Military Academic Skills Program, Marine Corps Satellite Network, Veterans Affairs Department programs and briefings on educational opportunities.

Marine Corps Staff Noncommissioned Officers Degree Completion Program. Selectees can earn bachelor’s degrees that fulfill Marine Corps requirements as identified in the annual Marine Corps bulletin. Typically, degrees may be obtained in accounting, safety, psychology, education, music or business administration, with emphasis in accounting or financial management.

Eligibility is limited to Marines in the ranks of staff sergeant through master sergeant who have the potential for retention and promotion. Degrees must be obtained within 18 months by attending school full time year-round.

Applicants must agree to extend or re-enlist for four years beyond completion of the program and serve a three-year payback tour in a billet outside their primary military occupational specialty. Marines receive regular pay and allowances during school, but they must pay for tuition and other expenses, such as textbooks. Marines may use GI Bill benefits, student loans or other non-Marine Corps means.

Contact: 703-784-9200

United Services Military Apprenticeship Program. In this program, enlisted members can apply their training and work experience toward a civilian journeyman certificate and achieve recognition equal to their civilian counterparts. Apprenticeships are available in more than 100 trades.

Contact: https://usmap.cnet.navy.mil

Navy College Program. The Navy’s voluntary education program includes tuition assistance, NCP for Afloat College Education, Academic Skills, Navy College Learning Centers, NCP Distance Learning Partnership Schools and the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Navy.

The program helps sailors and Marines earn high school equivalency certificates, vocational or technical certificates, and associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Civilian counselors are at installations worldwide. Sailors on nearly 300 ships have access to academic skills and college-level classes through NCPACE.

Contact: 877-253-7122 or DSN 922-1828; https://www.navycollege.navy.mil

Navy College Center. NCC is the Navy College Program’s call center for responding to inquiries about off-duty voluntary education programs and services. It also has information about the Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART) and can answer any other inquiries on voluntary education.

Contact: 877-253-7122 or DSN 922-1828; https://www.navycollege.navy.mil

Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. This shipboard program offers undergraduate college courses and basic academic skills to sailors and ship’s company Marines. Accredited college courses are delivered via an instructor who sails with the ship or through a variety of distance-learning media.

Contact: https://www.navycollege.navy.mil

Navy College Learning Centers. At select bases worldwide, Navy College Learning Centers provide free computer-based instruction in subjects such as English, math and reading. Adult family members may participate if space is available.

Other subjects include algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, chemistry, physics, sciences, social studies, life and job skills, and parenting skills. Preparation for the ASVAB, GED, SAT and CLEP exams also is available.

For service members assigned to a sea-duty command, instruction is available through NCPACE (above).

Contact: https://www.navycollege.navy.mil

TOP-UP

This program can be used to pay the balance of tuition and fees not covered by tuition assistance. Benefits can be used in conjunction with the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty but not the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve. The benefit is payable for up to 36 months and is available for all courses.

Top-Up entitlement is based on the calendar year and is not adjusted by training time or course load. The entitlement is reduced by the length of the course, not the payment amount. A three-month course, for example, reduces the entitlement to 33 months, whether the payment is $1,950 or $50.

A copy of the tuition assistance authorization form, signed by an authorized military official, is required when applying for Top-Up. Those who have not requested GI Bill benefits before should submit a VA Form 22-1990 to establish eligibility, along with the tuition assistance form. All forms should be clearly marked to specify you are requesting "Tuition Assistance Top-Up.

Contact: 888-GI-BILL-1 (888-442-4551); www.gibill.va.gov

TUITION ASSISTANCE

Tuition assistance for voluntary off-duty education is available to all service members for a maximum of $4,500 at 100 percent of tuition costs per year, or a maximum of $250 per semester hour.

GI Bill benefits may be used to cover education costs that exceed tuition assistance ceilings. Restrictions may apply. More information is available at base education or Navy College offices.

Tuition assistance can be used for courses taught in a classroom or by distance learning. However, the courses must be offered by colleges and universities approved by accrediting agencies recognized by the Education Department.

In October 2011, the Marine Corps unilaterally moved to lower its annual maximum payments to $850. The Corps reversed itself under pressure from the Defense Department, and defense officials have said tuition assistance levels will remain unchanged pending the outcome of a broad review of military benefits that has no fixed end date.

In addition, in an effort to tighten oversight of the TA program, the Defense Department has forged a new memorandum of understanding for all schools accepting military TA money.

The MOU calls for schools to be flexible in dealing with military students in transferring credits from other schools, granting academic credit for military training, and limiting full-time residency requirements to accommodate frequent military moves. The new MOU was to take effect Jan. 1, 2012, but a number of high-profile colleges and universities balked at signing it, claiming it infringes on their academic authority.

In response, DoD extended the signing deadline until the end of March. At press time, the issue was not resolved.

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