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Is It True That as a Massachusetts Guardsman I Can Go To School For Free If I Deploy?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: I have heard from friends in the Mass. National Guard that if they do a deployment while assigned as a member of that unit, they can go to any state school in Massachusetts for free. They say this does NOT impact their GI Bill. 1) Is this true?

A: While I’m seeing a tuition waiver for Massachusetts National Guard members on their website, I’m not seeing that it is dependent on completing a deployment. As a member in good standing, Guardsmen can attend a state supported school and get 100% of the tuition wavered.

Also not specific to just Massachusetts, Guardsmen can use Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) as part of their education program. This can come in handy of they choose to attend a private school as many of the state veteran education benefits do not cover private school attendance.

The deployment part sounds more like the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The only way a Guardsman without prior service can get Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility is to deploy for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001 in support of a contingency operation. A typical one-year tour provides up to 60% coverage.

To answer your question as far as the impact of their GI Bill by using both the Tuition Waiver and Post 9/11 GI Bill, it would affect the amount the VA pays the school. Since the VA is the last payer of tuition when other forms of financial assistance are used, they would not pay anything toward tuition. So in essence while a Guardsman can get both, all s/he is getting from their Post 9/11 GI Bill is the housing allowance and book stipend.

Since Tuition Waiver only covers up to 130 credits, a better plan in my estimation would be to use the Tuition Waiver Program to the maximum amount and then switch over to the Post 9/11 GI Bill to finish off the degree. That way the VA is paying your tuition (up to your tier percentage) and you still get the housing allowance and book stipend you are authorized for up to 36 months.

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