Happy Veterans Day

The GI Bill Isn’t the Only Education Funding Option
Guard, Reserves pay for school too.

By Matthew Pavelek

Funding an education is the main reason many people decide to enlist in the military. The Post-9/11 GI Bill seems to be getting most of the attention, but not everybody will be called to serve on active duty and meet the eligibility requirements. But don’t worry. Service members who join Reserve and National Guard units can earn some valuable benefits too. And, some programs at the state and federal levels are designed to provide funding in addition to GI Bill benefits, if you are eligible.gi-bill-isnt-the-only-edu-funding-option

National Guard Benefits
National Guard tuition assistance programs differ widely from state to state. Programs range from reimbursement programs, payment up-front, and in some cases outright exemption from tuition.

For example, Washington National Guardsmen may qualify for the Conditional Scholarship Program, which offers loan forgiveness for recipients who complete a contracted term of service and receive priority for scholarships if attending accredited Washington institutions.

Each state program has specific stipulations and qualifications to receive benefits as well. Individual states establish and monitor the programs. In Utah, National Guard members may receive 100 percent of tuition fees.

By contrast, qualifying Guardsmen in Pennsylvania may receive payments up to $5,038 per calendar year. To be eligible, Pennsylvania Guardsmen must also give a six-year service obligation.

Another important aspect of most programs is academic level. Many programs only provide benefits for undergraduate students to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. Illinois represents an exception where the National Guard Grant Program provides 100 percent of college tuition at any state supported college and may be used for any level of undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate education.

Some benefit programs change based on military rank as well. It is important to fully understand how each program works as well as the eligibility requirements. For a complete list of tuition assistance programs and other benefits provided by each state, visit www.1800goguard.com/benefits/state.php.

Reserve Benefits
Similar to National Guard programs, Reserve programs vary between military branches.

Army Reserve units offer the Education Career Stabilization (ECS) program to ensure that students will not be deployed while they are in school. Reserve tuition assistance, Selected Reserve GI Bill and kicker programs entitle students to anywhere from $11,000 to $24,000, depending on service commitment, rank and other factors. To learn more about the Army Reserve educational benefits visit www.goarmy.com/reserve/nps/education.jsp.

Air Force Reserve offers tuition assistance up to $250 per semester hour ($166.67 per quarter hour) not to exceed $4,500 annually per service member pursuing either an associate or bachelor’s degree. Air Force Reservists seeking a master’s degree may receive up to $187.50 per semester hour ($125 per quarter hour) not to exceed $3,500 annually. To learn more about the Air Force Reserve education benefits visit www.arpc.afrc.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=8487

Coast Guard Reserve offers tuition assistance up to $250 per semester hour, ($166.67 per quarter hour) not to exceed $4,500 annually per service member. Visit www.uscg.mil/reserve/entitlements.htm.

Navy Reserve offers reimbursement of up to 100 percent of tuition costs for Selected Reservists on active duty for 120 continuous days. To learn more about the Navy Reserve visit www.navyreserve.com/benefits/enlisted.jsp.

Marine Corps Reserve does not offer tuition assistance programs at this time, but Reservists may be eligible for other benefit programs, including the Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program. To learn more visit www.usmc-mccs.org/education/mta.cfm.

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