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Funding Your Education through the Tuition Assistance Program

Posted : Tuesday January 30, 2007
Created by: MSG Randall High, U.S. Army (ret)
The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) Program is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The benefit allows for service members to take off-duty education courses for free, up to a semester hour limit. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its members.
The Army Will Invest in Your Education
The Army offers the TA program to help soldiers take university courses off-duty and even earn a college degree. All active-duty soldiers are invited to participate in the program. It is important to note that the TA is not a loan. It should be viewed as money you have earned, just like your base pay, and therefore does not require repayment.

As of 2002, the Army's Tuition Assistance program will pay up to $250 per semester hour of credit, with an annual ceiling of $4,500 to soldiers enrolled in a post-secondary school. The policy also covers textbooks, but only if they are included in the school's tuition rates. Also covered are lab, enrollment, computer and other special fees.

"Top-Up" Education Benefits for Active Duty Soldiers
Another benefit for soldiers, called "Top-Up," works as an add-on to the Tuition Assistance Program. This benefit was created to compensate for education costs that exceed the TA program's ceiling. Enrolled soldiers may now draw funds from their Montgomery GI Bill. With Top-Up, active-duty soldiers may receive up to $32,400 in education benefits for 36 months or more of service.

Soldiers may also qualify for Pell grants, which are available through the federal government and are based on the previous year's income tax return. You should contact the school you decide to attend for more information and application forms.

Online Education Can Start Any Time, Anywhere
No matter where you are stationed you can begin the process of earning your degree, since there are many online education options for soldiers. There are Education Centers in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Qatar, the Sinai, Iraq and Kuwait, and the Army is willing to help out soldiers in even more remote locations.

Taking online courses through the TA program also earns you points toward your promotion board. You can earn a maximum of 100 points for off-duty civilian education when your administrative NCO promotions board points are calculated.

While you are in the service, you have the resources to complete a college degree that will prepare you for a life after the service while also enhancing your Army career. The Army has implemented programs that allow you to educate yourself and prepare for your future, no matter where you are in the world.

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