September 18, 2021

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Does The Military Pay For College

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, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc BlogsEnlisting in the military is not only an opportunity to serve your country, but there are several ways the military helps pay for college that act as an added bonus. If you join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines, then you should be aware of the types of education assistance you can receive. Learn about the programs available to you whether you took loans out prior to joining the military, during, or after.

Does The Military Pay For College?

Yes, but there are strict eligibility requirements in order to receive financial assistance in obtaining your degree. Here are some of the ways that the military pays for college.

Military Tuition Assistance

Reserve military members and those on active duty may be eligible for tuition assistance, which means that the military pays up to 100% of your tuition. The eligibility requirements vary by branch and the total cannot exceed $4,500 per fiscal year.

This is not a loan, but it is a benefit of military service that is paid directly to your school to cover tuition and fees. This can help you to obtain a degree with little to no cost, depending on where you choose to go to school.

How to apply for tuition assistance:

Tuition Assistance “Top-Up” Program

This program is an added benefit designed to supplement the tuition assistance from the military with GI Bill benefits. In order to be eligible for the Top-Up benefit, you must be approved for federal Tuition Assistance by a military department and also be eligible for GI Bill benefits. Tuition Assistance will pay for up to 75% of the cost and the Top-Up will pay the remainder.

How to apply for the top-up program if you haven’t already filed a claim for the GI Bill:

  • Request Tuition Assistance from your branch of service. See your education services officer or education counselor.
  • Complete an application for VA education benefits, using the VA’s VETS.GOV website.
  • If you’ve previously filed a claim for MGIB and weren’t denied benefits, simply submit your signed Tuition Assistance approval form to the VA Regional Processing Office that handles your claim.

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The GI Bill

With the GI Bill, you can get up to 4 years of education benefits if you’re a service member or a veteran. These benefits can be used to attend college, career schools, training programs, or licensing and testing programs. There are two separate GI Bills that are used in these ways, which are the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill will give you paid tuition and fees in addition to a stipend for housing and books if you’ve served at least 90 days of active duty since September 10, 2001. These benefits are based on how long you served in active duty and can be transferred to your spouse or family member. People who have survived a military member’s passing after September 10, 2001 may be eligible for the Fry Scholarship, which carries the same benefits.

Benefits and Eligibility For The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 3 years of education benefits. If your release from active duty was before January 1, 2013, then you must use the benefits within 15 years. If your discharge date was on or after January 1, 2013, the time limitation has been removed.

There are higher education programs that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program that may make additional funds available to you without a charge to what you’re entitled to with the GI Bill. You may also receive payments for a monthly housing allowance, annual books and supplies stipend, and a one-time rural benefit payment. If you’re attending a private or foreign school, then tuition and fees are capped at the national maximum rate.

The Montgomery GI Bill extends educational benefits to any active duty member of the military who served for at least 2 years of active duty. This also extends to veterans of any branch of the military. You receive up to $1,857 each month for educational expenses, as long as you’re enrolled full-time. You cannot transfer these benefits. If you’re in the Selected Reserve, then you receive up to $368 per month in exchange for a 6-year obligation of service to the reserves.

The two programs under the Montgomery GI Bill are as follows:

You can apply by filling out an Application for Education Benefits.

Student Loan Repayment

If you’re currently enrolled in the military, then the government may repay your student loans for you. Your eligibility depends on the military branch you’re enlisted in, but your loans must be in good standing no matter what. The military may pay off some or all of your student loan debt through this program.

Active Duty Health Professions Student Loan Repayment Program

Health professionals who are also on active duty can qualify for $40,000 per year toward your student loan debt for up to 3 years if you’re serving in the dental, medical, allied health, nursing, or veterinary corps while on active duty. You can also be eligible for up to $50,000 in total loan forgiveness over 3 years if you’re in the reserves for those professions.

What Loans Qualify for Active Duty Health Professions Student Loan Repayment?

  • Stafford Loans
  • Grad PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans
  • Perkins loans
  • Health professions student loans (HPSLs)
  • Private student loans

How to apply for Active Duty Health Professions Student Loan Repayment:

For more information, visit

Air Force College Student Loan Repayment Program

You can get up to $10,000 of your student loan balance forgiven if you sign up for the Air Force College Student Loan Repayment Program.

What Loans Qualify for Air Force Student Loan Repayment?

How to Apply for Air Force Student Loan Repayment:

Visit for more information.

Army Student Loan Repayment

You can receive up to 33 ⅓% or $1,500 toward the unpaid principal balance of your student loans for each year of active duty.

What Loans Qualify for Army Student Loan Repayment:

  • Stafford loans
  • Grad PLUS loans
  • Parent PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans
  • Perkins loans
  • Supplemental loans for students (SLS)

How to Apply For Army Student Loan Repayment:

Contact an Army recruiter to learn how to apply, find out whether you’re eligible, and learn more about what active duty service in the Army entails.

Navy Student Loan Repayment Program

You must serve a minimum of 3 years on active duty during your first enlistment to be eligible for this repayment program. Like with the Army, you can receive 33 ⅓% or up to $1,500 toward your principal balance, whichever is greater. You can receive a maximum of $65,000 in loan forgiveness, but your loans can’t be in default.

What Loans Qualify for Navy Student Loan Repayment:

  • Stafford loans
  • Grad PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans
  • Perkins loans

How to Apply For the Navy Student Loan Repayment Program:

You can visit for more information, or contact a Navy recruiter.

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National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program

If you sign up to serve, you also need to meet other criteria for this program:

  • You must enlist for a minimum of six years
  • Enlist for a critical skills vacancy in the grade of E-4 or below
  • Enlist in a qualifying position in an MTO or medical TDA unit only
  • Score a minimum score of 50 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT)
  • You cannot also be enlisting as a 09R SMP cadet, RFP, or Active First Program
  • You must not be enlisted as a glossary non-prior service soldier (GNPS).

If you are eligible, you can earn up to $7,500 annually, with a maximum of $50,000, toward your qualifying student loan debts.

What Lons Qualify For National Guard Student Loan Repayment:

  • Stafford loans
  • Grad PLUS loans
  • Consolidation loans
  • Perkins loans

How to Apply for National Guard Loan Repayment:

For more information, visit the National Guard Student Loan Forgiveness website.

Student Loan Forgiveness or Discharge

Forgiveness and discharge programs differ from repayment programs in that they eliminate your loans completely. Here are 3 options available to military members to have your loans forgiven or discharged:

National Defense Student Loan Discharge

The National Defense Student Loan Discharge is for military members who served at least 1 year in an area deemed “imminent danger” or in direct fire. Your Perkins or Direct Loans would qualify.

How to Apply for National Defense Student Loan Discharge:

Fill out the Department of Defense form and send a letter to your loan servicer explaining why you think you qualify for the discharge. The discharge amount varies, so your servicer is the best point of contact.

Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

The Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge is available to release veterans of their loans. You need to have a service-related disability that’s documented by the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to qualify and be deemed permanently disabled. Most loans are eligible for forgiveness through this program.

How to Apply for Veterans Total and Permanent Disability Discharge:

Follow this link to begin the application process, or apply with a paper application.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness for Military

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a little-known benefit that can help you pay off your student loans. You can have your federal student loans forgiven after 120 qualifying payments and there are no limits on the amount that can be forgiven.

Military service qualifies under the “qualifying employment” guidelines.

How to Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness:

You can fill out the employment certification form or access our free assessment to see if you qualify.

Other Ways the Military Helps Pay For College

Aside from student loan forgiveness and receiving assistance with repayment, you can follow a few other options that will help you manage your loans.

Limit Your Interest With The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is for any military members who took out student loans out prior to joining. They provide a cap on interest rates while you serve on active duty and this applies to both federal and private loans.

The loan must’ve been disbursed before you started active duty. The interest rate cannot exceed 6% and this can bring significant savings, especially with private loans.

How to apply for SCRA:

Submit a copy of your service orders to have this applied to your loans

  • Wait until your loan servicer applies the cap through checks of the military database

This is helpful for anyone who wants to join the military after you’ve finished your education. It can keep your payments low and cap the amount of interest you need to pay back.

Defer Your Payments While on Active Duty

You can defer your student loan payments while on active duty and for 13 months after you return. The government will pay the interest on your Direct Loans and Federal Stafford Loans (both subsidized). You won’t have to worry about interest accruing while you’re not making principal payments.

If you have an unsubsidized loan, then you won’t be able to have your interest paid while in deferment.

Lower Your Payments With Income-Driven Repayment

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan while you’re on active duty so that you won’t pay more than necessary in comparison to your income. These plans could bring your payments down to as little as $0 per month.

The Heroes Act Waiver is also there to help, because you’re not required to submit proof of income while in active duty. That means you can maintain low payments even if your income increases.

Final Thoughts on How the Military Pays for College

The military wants to incentivize people to enlist and one way to do that is by helping to pay for education. The variety of options available show that the U.S. government wants to assist its servicemen and women in paying off their student loans or having them forgiven or discharged whenever possible. It’s a small, but significant, way to show gratitude for your service.

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