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Army Education Benefits - MGIB, New G.I. Bill, and Yellow Ribbon Program

What Are Army Education Benefits?

As far as education is concerned, the military takes care of its own by offering active, Reserve, and National Guard servicemembers, spouses, dependent family members and retirees a wide array of education benefits. Whether you are still serving in uniform or have already attained retired-veteran status, the military has an education program for you.

If you still put on the uniform, your education benefit options include:

  • College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Tuition Assistance Top-Up
  • New GI Bill
  • Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
  • Montgomery GI Bill - Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR)

Many servicemembers prefer to use Tuition Assistance to earn degrees while still on active duty. Additionally, the GI Bill can be used for an advanced degree once out of the military. If you qualify for the New GI Bill, you can also transfer benefits to your spouse or children.

If you have since hung up your uniform, your army education benefits options include:

  • New GI Bill
  • Montgomery GI Bill - Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
  • Montgomery GI Bill Buy-Up Program
  • Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)
  • Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance Program (DEP)
  • Veterans Educational Assistance (VEAP)
  • Veterans Upward Bound Program (VUB)

New Educational Benefits: The Yellow Ribbon Program

One little-known part of the New GI Bill is the Yellow Ribbon Program. If you plan on attending a private university, ask if the school is enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Program. If so, the VA pays your tuition, up to the maximum in-state public school tuition and the Yellow Ribbon Program school pays up to one-half of what remains. The VA will then pay an additional amount equal to what the school paid. This normally leaves you with very little tuition left to pay out of your pocket.

For those still serving, you can use your education benefits during your off-duty time by attending class on campus or by studying online. If you want (or need) to fast-track your degree, use the CLEP, DSST, and ECE tests in the DANTES program to earn credits toward your degree without having to attend the classes. You can earn credits by examination or "test-out" in a variety of classes and courses, thereby reducing the number of classes you have to take to earn your degree. However, before you invest time taking DANTES tests, make sure your school accepts the credits.

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What Are the Army's Education and Tuition Assistance Programs?

While each service branch administers its own education programs, many of the programs are similar in nature, while others can be more branch-specific. Below is a guide to education benefits offered to members of the Army:

Education and Tuition Assistance Programs

The Army considered three factors when it designed its education programs:

1. The Army needs better educated servicemembers. As equipment becomes more sophisticated, soldiers need to be able to both operate and maintain the new equipment. As life in general gets more complicated, Army families need more education to keep up with the changing world.

2. The frequent moving and re-stationing of Army families can make completing a college degree next to impossible. As a result, the Army came up with a list of programs that makes getting an education, or paying off existing education loans, much easier:

  • Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). TAP pays 100 percent of the tuition and fees for active duty soldiers, up to $250 per credit hour. As part of the Army Continuing Education program, soldiers use TAP to pay for classes they take during their off-duty time to advance their educations with little to no out of pocket cost.
  • College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP). If you already have student loans when you join the Army, paying them back can be a significant strain on your finances. Instead of signing up for the GI Bill when you enlist, inquire about signing up for the CLRP. It pays off up to $65,000 of your college loans in return for a three-year active duty enlistment. Army Reservists can pay off up to $40,000 in student loans in return for a six-year enlistment.
  • Servicemembers Opportunity College Army Degree (SOCAD). The SOCAD program is a dream come true for Army families trying to get their degrees while frequently moving. SOCAD's network of 1,800 accredited colleges provides spouses and college-aged dependent children the ability to transfer credits between SOCAD schools, without further evaluation or losing credits. Now, as long as families stay within the SOCAD network, they can continue their education, regardless of location, without having to take classes over because the new school won't accept the previous school's credits.
  • Dependent Children Scholarships. The MG James Ursano Scholarship Program, administered by the Army Relief Fund (AER), provides dependent children attending college money to help pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and room and board.
  • Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP). OSEAP provides education financial assistance to overseas Army spouses. Its purpose is providing more occupational opportunities for spouses through increased education. The program is need-based and pays up to half of their tuition costs, with a per-term limit of $580 and a yearly limit of $2,900.
  • Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP). SSEAP, a sister program of OSEAP, has a slightly different focus. While it applies to state-side Army active duty spouses, it also covers retired spouses and widows/widowers of both active duty and retired soldiers.

3. With Army Reservists and National Guard soldiers being frequently called up for active duty, the Army wanted to provide Army education benefits for Selected Reserve soldiers. If you are in the Selected Reserve, you have the following Army education benefits:

The major difference between the MGIB-AD and MGIB-SR is as a Selected Reservist, you have to use your MGIB-SR education benefits while you are still in an active drilling status--and you lose them once you are discharged. While mobilized, you may also earn additional education benefits depending on the length of your deployment(s).

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How Can I Get My College Education Paid For?

If you are a high school graduate who wants to go to college, but can't afford it, the Army has a program for you. The Army will pay for your college, and in return, you agree to serve for at least four years as an Army commissioned officer. You can choose one of two routes to a degree and a commission:

  • The United States Military Academy
  • Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)

The Army's prestigious military academy is West Point. To attend, your appointment must be Congressional or service-connected. Once in the Academy, you study both military and civilian topics with your degree options being Army branch-specific and applicable to your chosen officer field.

With the ROTC program, you attend military classes and train during the academic year while studying at a civilian college or university. You will also attend additional training sessions in the summers. With the ROTC program, you can major in any field.

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What Education Assistance Programs Are Available to Spouses and Dependents?

Believing in the whole-family concept when it comes to education, the Army did not forget about spouses and dependent children. The Army designed programs to assist military families with meeting their education goals:

  • The Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). MyCAA provides eligible military spouses up to $6,000 of educational assistance for tuition, books, supplies, exams, certifications, and licensures leading to employment in several portable career fields. The career fields are portable because jobs exist in these fields regardless of where the military family is stationed.
  • The National Military Family Association (NMFA) sponsors the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship. Open to spouses of active duty Army, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, it also applies to retired soldiers' spouses and widows/widowers. Recipients of the scholarship can use the money to pay for tuition and books when enrolled in a professional certification, undergraduate or graduate degree program.
  • The Fisher House distributes their Scholarships for Military Children Program through Post commissaries. Each location awards one $1,500 scholarship to a child of an Army family. The recipient may use the money to pay for tuition or books. To apply, applicants must be enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) database.
  • Soldiers eligible for the New GI Bill may use the Bill's transferability option to transfer some or all of their education benefits to their spouses, children or both. The caveat is the soldier must make the transfer while still serving and can't do it after retiring.
  • The Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance Program applies to you if you are a spouse or child of a veteran who:
    • either died or is 100% permanently disabled as a result of a service-connected disability
    • died as a result of a service-connected disability
    • went missing in action
    • was forcibly detained by a foreign power

You can get up to 45 months of Army education benefits that you can use for:

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What Careers Are Good Choices for Veterans?

The military, as a whole, transitions over 400,000 servicemembers each year into the civilian world. Your "soft" skills, along with your leadership experience, loyalty, and attention-to-detail are all skills and experience employers crave, but can have a hard time finding in the civilian job pool. Use these skills and experience to your advantage and along with a bachelor's degree, choose a rewarding career in one of the following fields:

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, all these career fields have projected higher-than-average employment opportunities between 2008 and 2018. You can match your MOS to a post-Army job with the Military to Civilian Job Translator.

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What Salary Can I Expect for Veteran Careers?

In 2009, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics listed the median annual wage for each of the above career fields as:

  • Computer Software Engineer: $87,900
  • Health Care: $82,243
  • Human Resources: $96,130
  • Accountant: $59,430
  • Law Enforcement: $51,410

Keep in mind that there can be several different occupations within each field, and the wages above are averages for the career groups. With your Army experience and at least a bachelor's degree, you will be well-positioned to compete with your non-military colleagues for civilian career jobs across a wide range of industries.

By planning ahead for the eventual end to your Army membership and by taking advantage of Army education benefits and tuition assistance programs, you'll have an advantage over your non-military competitors when you start job-searching. If you are already out, you can still use the Army education benefits available for veteran soldiers to get your degree. On average over the course of a 30-year career, bachelor's degree holders earn more than $1,000,000 more than their non-degree counterparts.

The Army made great efforts to create education programs for you, your spouse, and dependents. You earned these benefits through your Army service--now use them for a better tomorrow for both yourself and your family.

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Where Can I Learn More?