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Using Military Tuition Assistance to Pay for College

Using Military Tuition Assistance to Pay for College

Military tuition assistance – makes college education affordable for those who serve.  Understanding how tuition assistance works is essential to a successful college experience as a military student.

What is Tuition Assistance?

Military tuition assistance is an earned benefit open to eligible members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.  Active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members can also receive tuition assistance.  Tuition assistance is like a grant, and does not require the service member to pay it back like a loan. This benefit is paid directly to the college or university by the military service branch.

Tuition Assistance Annual Limits

All military tuition assistance programs pay up to $250 per semester hour, or $166 per quarter hour.  Each Military service branch has its own annual limits per fiscal year:

  • Army: $4,500
  • Air Force: $4,500
  • Navy: $3,000
  • Marine Corps: $4,500
  • Coast Guard: $2,250

Students should research the total cost of their education per year as tuition assistance may not cover the entire amount due. Certain charges like course material fees are not covered by tuition assistance.  Students should research other means of financial assistance like financial aid or the VA Top-up program (using Montgomery GI Bill or Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits) to cover the difference in tuition cost and fees versus the annual military tuition assistance allowance.

General Eligibility for Tuition Assistance

Servicemembers must attend a tuition assistance orientation, obtain a mandatory degree plan, and submit tuition assistance requests through their respective military service education portals.

Service members must also maintain academic standards.  Undergraduate students must earn a grade of C or higher per class or will risk recoupment of tuition assistance funds.  Graduate students must earn a grade of B or higher or will risk recoupment.

Different branches have different timelines to request tuition assistance.  All timelines are relative to the start dates of classes. 

  • Army: students can request tuition assistance from 60 days to the day before the class start date.  
  • Air Force: students must request tuition assistance 45 to 7 days before the class start date. 
  • Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard: students must request tuition assistance no later than 14 days before the class start date.  

Service members looking to use their tuition assistance benefit must keep both class start dates and tuition assistance request dates in mind. Using tuition assistance benefits may seem confusing at first. However, military students are not alone, and have resources to help them understand and navigate their benefits.  All military branches have education counselors available either in person at local education centers, via phone, or online through virtual education centers who can help military students understand how to best use their benefits to reach their educational goals