MILITARY EDUCATION — PERSONAL
The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support provides service members with educational opportunities outside the classroom. Services are available at nearly all education centers on base. Most are free and available to active-duty and reserve personnel and adult family members. Services include:
♦ College credit for skills. Troops can earn 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 — SELECTED RESERVE
Selected Reserve members can qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill — Selected Reserve, available to reservists who have completed Initial Active Duty for Training, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and enlist or extend for six years.
In some cases, the Selected Reserve GI Bill can be used before or after Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits (see below), but never at the same time. For example, 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.
Reservists who became eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill — Selected Reserve on or after Oct. 1, 1992, have 14 years to use the benefits, during which they must remain in good standing in a Selected Reserve unit.
The only exception is for mobilized members of the National Guard and Reserve, who can use the MGIB-SR after they separate from service for the same number of months they were activated plus four more months. They also may add multiple periods of activation to further increase this extension, or portability.
Reservists may receive up to 36 months of payments. Monthly payments are currently $345 for full-time students; $258 for three-quarter-time, $171 for half-time and $86.25 for less than half-time.
The Montgomery GI Bill Kicker Program, managed by each service, is available to qualifying reservists who enlist in high-priority units or critical skill fields. The kicker is an additional $200 to $350 per month in GI Bill benefits for full-time students.
Mobilized Guard and reserve members who serve continuously on active duty for at least 24 months may pay the $1,200 enrollment fee and qualify for the more generous Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty. For full-time study, this program is paying $1,473 per month in 2012.
Reservists who have accumulated significant active-duty time since Sept. 11, 2001, may see the Post-9/11 GI Bill as the clear choice over either version of the Montgomery GI Bill. However, some types of education and training are covered by one program but not the other. Check with VA or your local installation education counselor to discuss your education goals.
POST-9/11 GI BILL
To be eligible for this new program, which is far more generous than even the active-duty Montgomery GI Bill, National Guard and reserve members must have at least 30 days of continuous active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and be discharged for a service-connected disability, or have an aggregate of at least 90 days of active service after that date and, among other criteria, be discharged honorably or for reasons such as hardship.
Eligible service members typically receive up to 36 months of entitlement under the new bill.
Those who qualify for the current Montgomery GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve or the Reserve Educational Assistance Program can choose to receive benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Service members are entitled to a percentage, based on their time in service, of the following:
♦ Tuition and fees charged. 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.
♦ 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. These stipends are equal to the military Basic Allowance for Housing rate for an E-5 with dependents in the same ZIP code as the school.
♦ An annual stipend for books and supplies of up to $1,000 a year.
Yellow Ribbon. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also features a &ldquoYellow Ribbon&rdquo program under which out-of-state students and those attending private and graduate schools may receive extra tuition above the cap. Schools must enter into voluntary agreements with VA to take part in this program.
Full Post-9/11 GiI Bill benefits are available to those who have at least 36 months of active duty or at least 30 continuous days of active duty and were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
Those with less active-duty service receive a lesser percentage of the full benefits rate, down to a minimum of 40 percent for those with at least 90 days but less than six months of active duty.
Members are eligible for these benefits for 15 years from their last period of active duty of at least 90 consecutive days. Benefits also are available for tutorial assistance and to reimburse a licensing and certification test.
RESERVE EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (REAP)
The Reserve Educational Assistance Program helps reserve component members ordered to active duty in response to war or national emergency (contingency operation) as declared by the president or Congress.
The program makes certain reservists activated for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001, eligible for education benefits or increased benefits. REAP benefits are a percentage of full-time payment rate for the active-duty Montgomery GI Bill.
Reservists who serve at least 90 days but less than one year of active duty may get 40 percent of the active-duty GI Bill rate, while those who serve at least one but less than two years of active duty may receive 60 percent of the active-duty GI Bill rate.
The current maximum monthly payment to full-time students who are reservists with at least two years of continuous service is $1,178.40.
Eligible reservists may receive up to 36 months of full-time REAP benefits. However, participants may not use more than 48 months of entitlement under any combination of VA education programs. For example, a reservist who uses 20 months of benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill — Selected Reserve would be eligible for only 28 months of REAP payments.
Retroactive payments. REAP payments are retroactive and cover all qualifying mobilization periods since Sept. 11, 2001. Retroactive payments under REAP are based on GI Bill rates in effect at the time.
Accelerated payments. REAP offers advance payments of earned benefits to pay for technical schools and courses. Payments are available for high-cost or high-tech training leading directly to employment. VA maintains a list of eligible programs. Accelerated payments are available only when the up-front costs of a course exceed four months of GI Bill benefits.
Buy-up option. This allows REAP participants to get up to an additional $150 per month in GI Bill benefits. Under this option, members contribute extra money, up to $600 total, to earn extra benefits on top of their basic benefits. The maximum $600 buy-up contribution is worth $5,400 in extra college money if the service member has 36 months of REAP eligibility.
Attendance verification. REAP participants must verify their school attendance each month. This can be done online at www.gibill.va.gov/wave/ or by calling toll-free 877-823-2378.
Contact: www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/index.html; click on the REAP link under “Other Programs”.
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 when they enlist.
Most states and territories offer National Guard members tuition assistance or waiver programs that go beyond the GI Bill. In most cases, these can be used in conjunction with active or reserve tuition assistance.
State benefits can vary from year to year in some states due to availability of funds. Consult your state’s education services officer.
State tuition assistance programs may be used with GI Bill benefits, even exceeding 100 percent of tuition costs.
Tuition assistance for voluntary off-duty education is available to all service members for up to $4,500 at 100 percent of tuition costs per year, or a maximum of $250 per semester hour.
Montgomery 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.
SERVICE PROGRAMS — AIR FORCE
Air Force Voluntary Education Branch. This branch oversees all Air Force education centers and counselors, administration of tuition assistance, testing and other voluntary education services.
Airman Commissioning Program. A variety of commissioning programs are available. Individuals should contact their Force Support Squadron, Education and Training Sections for help with application packages.
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 and is the only two-year institution exclusively serving enlisted personnel. It offers 67 associate degrees in five broad career areas: aircraft and missile maintenance, electronics and telecommunications, allied health, logistics and resources, and public and support services.
Students combine Air Force technical training, professional military education and general education credits from accredited schools.
Through the Air University Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative program, enlisted members with a CCAF associate degree can earn their bachelor’s degree at partnering schools by taking a maximum of 60 additional credits of coursework.
Academic Testing Program. Base education offices provide to airmen free tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Satisfactory test scores are a way for airmen to bypass some resident courses.
Academic Counseling Program. Base education offices have professionals to help airmen choose schools and degree programs to meet their educational goals. Counseling is free.
AIR FORCE RESERVE
DANTES spouse testing program. Spouses of Air Force Reserve members may take DANTES-funded CLEP general and subject exams and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests through an Air Force Reserve, Army National Guard or Air National Guard DANTES Test Center.
Contact: Air Force Reserve Personnel Center Military Training Division, 800-525-0102; www.arpc.afrc.af.mil.
AIR NATIONAL GUARD
Air National Guard members are eligible for all DANTES credit-by-examination programs, Community College of the Air Force associate degree programs, federal and state tuition assistance, the Student Loan Repayment Program and the Montgomery GI Bill.
Many states and territories offer tuition assistance and other financial aid in addition to other federal benefits. Contact your state National Guard or Air National Guard office to ask about available funding.
SERVICE PROGRAMS — ARMY
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: Visit www.goarmyed.com or contact local education centers.
Army/American Council on Education Registry Transcript System. This popular service for active-duty Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers generates an official transcript reflecting military education and training, job experience, and educational testing achievements, with college credits recommended for each by the American Council on Education. The free transcripts give prospective colleges and civilian employers a means to evaluate a soldier’s achievements.
Contact: Get a transcript request form at aarts.army.mil and mail it to the AARTS Operations Center, 298 Grant Ave., Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-1254, or fax to 913-684-9497.
Army College Fund. The ACF is an enlistment incentive to help recruit soldiers into critical or short-staffed military skill fields. It works in tandem with the Montgomery GI Bill; soldiers cannot use the ACF without being eligible for the Montgomery GI Bill. Amounts vary based on length of enlistment.
Contact: Visit www.goarmyed.com or contact an Army recruiter.
Army Correspondence Courses. Available through the Army Institute for Professional Development, these are open to soldiers seeking to learn basic and professional skills at their own pace. Some courses can be taken online; others can be ordered and delivered by mail. Some count as college credit.
Federal tuition assistance for Army National Guard soldiers. The Federal Tuition Assistance ARNG Program provides financial assistance to part-time Guard soldiers in support of professional and personal self-development. It is not a guaranteed benefit; it is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Features include:
♦ 100 percent of tuition and fees, with tuition caps of $250 per semester hour and $167 per quarter hour.
♦ No more than one credential from the associate, bachelor’s, master’s or first professional degree.
♦ $4,500 maximum payment per soldier, per fiscal year.
Testing programs. The Army offers free college-level equivalency exams, though a registration fee may be required when not testing at a military testing facility. Some tests significantly decrease the number of traditional college courses required to complete a degree program.
Before taking a credit exam, check with your college or university to make sure it will accept the credit. Most Army Education Centers have study guides and aids to help prepare for these tests, including:
♦ General Educational Development.
♦ Graduate Management Admission Test.
♦ Graduate Record Examinations.
♦ The Praxis Series.
♦ CLEP and Excelsior College (formerly Regents College) Examinations; free for Army National Guard spouses and civilians.
♦ DANTES Subject Standardized Tests; free for spouses of both Army Reserve and Army National Guard members and civilian employees.
ARMY NATIONAL GUARD
In addition to the programs listed above, most states offer Army National Guard members state-funded tuition assistance to use with federal education benefits. Check with your Army National Guard Education Services officer or unit commander to find out what’s available in your state.
♦ Reserve Officer Training Corps simultaneous membership program. ROTC cadets who enlist as members of a National Guard unit and serve in both programs receive Guard pay, an ROTC stipend and tuition assistance and may qualify for GI Bill benefits and/or a GI Bill “kicker.” They are paid as E-5s unless they previously held a higher rank.
♦ Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, Guard. SOC Consortium colleges and universities help service members and their families get college degrees.
Military students can take courses when off duty at or near military installations in the U.S. and overseas.
♦ National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program. For those who already have student loans, the Guard will help repay loans up to $20,000. For each qualifying year of service, the Guard will pay a minimum of 15 percent of the loan amount or $500 and a maximum of $3,000 per year. Loans must be acquired before enlistment, extension and re-enlistment.
Nonprior-service individuals must enlist for six years, become qualified in their occupational specialty and enlist into a unit vacancy up to 125 percent of the assigned unit’s wartime strength. Prior-service members must enlist or re-enlist for six years, be skill-qualified, enlist in a critical unit or skill and be first-time users of the Student Loan Repayment Program.
Current members may extend their contract at any time to qualify for the SLRP.
Army Reserve benefits are similar to the National Guard programs listed above except for state education benefits. Commissioning and ROTC programs detailed above also apply here. Through DANTES, members and their spouses can take free CLEP and DANTES equivalency tests.
Reserve Officer Training Corps simultaneous membership program. Cadets who enlist in a reserve unit get reserve duty pay, the ROTC stipend and tuition assistance and may be eligible for Montgomery GI Bill and/or kicker bonus.
Concurrent Admissions Program. ConAP allows new soldiers to delay starting college, for financial or other reasons, by applying to college when they enlist in the Army Reserve.
When soldiers enlist, they select a Concurrent Admissions Program college. New reservists must send a College Referral and Intent to Enroll form, stating their intent to enroll during or after enlistment.
Colleges acknowledge the intent and provide guidelines about applying for admission not more than one year before the expected entry date, beginning the college academic experience, using distance learning, and staying in touch by email and through the college website. Those accepted for admission have their enrollments deferred for up to two years after completing Advanced Individual Training.
ConAP is a joint program between the Army Recruiting Command and more than 1,800 community colleges, four-year colleges and universities.
Contact: For more information, visit www.soc.aascu.org/conap.
Army Reserve College Loan Repayment Program. The Army Reserve helps soldiers pay approved Perkins, Stafford or other federally guaranteed student loans. The Army Reserve may pay up to $20,000 for a six-year enlistment.
The following loans qualify for the Army Reserve loan repayment program:
♦ Auxiliary Loan Assistance for Students.
♦ Stafford Student Loan or Guaranteed Student Loan.
♦ Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students.
♦ Federally Insured Student Loan.
♦ Perkins Loan or National Direct Student Loan.
♦ Supplemental Loan for Students.
Most soldiers can qualify for payment of 15 percent of the principal or $1,500 per year, whichever is greater, for each successfully completed year of enlisted active-duty service.
SERVICE PROGRAMS — COAST GUARD RESERVE
Most Coast Guard reservists drill at active-duty sites and have access to nearly all educational programs available to active-duty members.
Coast Guard Institute. Programs are available to active-duty members, reservists and spouses.
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 on request. Participants can expect general guidance toward a degree-completion plan and documentation of military-related training and experience.
Contact: The Academic Development Division Institute, 405-954-2437, 405-954-1360 or 405-954-0072, or visit www.uscg.mil/hq/cgi.
SERVICE PROGRAMS — MARINE CORPS RESERVE
Voluntary education programs for reservists come under the Corps’ Lifelong Learning Programs.
The Montgomery GI Bill Kicker is available to Marine Reserve members who agree to a six-year enlistment in a high-priority unit or critical career field. Qualified reservists get this benefit once they have passed their mandatory drill stop date. The Marine Corps Reserve Kicker adds up to an additional $350 per month in GI Bill payments.
Contact: The Marine Individual Reserve Support Organization, www.marines.mil/unit/marforres/mirso.
More information on the Lifelong Learning Program is at www.usmc-mccs.org/education/lll.cfm.
SERVICE PROGRAMS — NAVY RESERVE
Navy reservists can attend a variety of military schools and courses on their annual training, complete correspondence courses and enroll in a number of education programs such as:
♦ The Reserve Allied Medical Personnel program. This program is available to actively drilling enlisted hospital corpsmen and dental technicians who attend civilian training at a local college for certain critical Navy skills, such as physical therapy, respiratory therapy and biomedical repair.
Tuition, fees, books and required clothing and equipment are paid for. RAMP participants also are authorized to use GI Bill benefits, if eligible.
Contact: For more information, call 800-USA-USNR.
♦ Specialized Training Assistance Program for Health Professionals. This is open to commissioned critical health care professionals and registered nurses in certain critical skills in the Navy Reserve. Payments are monthly. For each year of financial assistance, participants incur a two-year drilling obligation in the Navy Reserve after finishing the training program. They get drill pay in addition to the monthly stipend, which is paid at the rate of the Armed Forces Health Professionals Scholarship Program.
Contact: Navy Medicine Operational Training Center, www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmotc.
Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership. The Navy College Program has partnerships with colleges and universities to offer sailors rate-related degrees via distance learning.
This partnership provides associate and bachelor’s degree programs for each rating and makes maximum use of military professional training and experience to fulfill degree requirements. Courses are offered in a variety of formats, such as CD, paper and Internet.
Contact: The Navy College Center at 877-253-7122; www.navycollege.navy.mil.
SMART TRANSCRIPTS (NAVY AND MARINE)
Marine and Navy reservists can get credit for their active and reserve schools and experience through the Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript. SMART is an official transcript, endorsing and recommending college credit for military education and training; it is recognized by the American Council on Education.
Contact: Transcripts can be viewed and printed online from the Navy College Program website, www.navycollege.navy.mil.