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Education Opportunities for Service Members

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You may be aware of the GI Bill® which, since World War II, has put higher education within reach for millions of veterans. But a number of other programs help fund schooling for active-duty service members as well. Service members can tap into education benefits to meet their goals, whether they plan on a military career or will transition into the civilian workforce.

The Tuition Assistance Program

Each Defense Department service branch and the Coast Guard offer active-duty service members financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs. National Guard members and reservists may also be eligible based on their service eligibility and should check with their service for more information.

The Tuition Assistance Program funds up to up to $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour. The total cannot exceed $4,500 per year. Service members can use the funds to help pay for vocational or technical programs, undergraduate or graduate programs, or independent study.

Classes must be from an accredited two- or four-year institution on or off the installation, or by distance learning. The service branch will pay the school directly. Service members can find out more information from their service branch:

Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of programs to help service members pay for their education. Some education benefits, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill® and the Montgomery GI Bill® Active Duty, can be used to supplement Tuition Assistance Program funding. Service members can apply through the Top-Up program.

Unlike the Tuition Assistance Program, the VA education benefits can be used after separating from the military.

  • Post-9/11 GI Bill® provides aid for college education or on-the-job training for those who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Benefits include support for college degrees, testing costs, job training, apprenticeships and more. Also, a spouse or child can use these benefits in certain cases.
  • Montgomery GI Bill® Active Duty, sometimes known as Chapter 30, provides education benefits to service members and veterans with at least two years of active duty.
  • Montgomery GI Bill® Selected Reserve provides education and training benefits to members of the reserve.
  • Rogers STEM Scholarship is for veterans and Fry scholars who have or will soon exhaust their benefits and are currently enrolled in a STEM degree program or are seeking a teaching certification.

Other ways to help pay for higher education

Service members may be able to save time and money by earning college credit through their military experience. The Joint Services Transcript for Military Personnel describes military schooling and work history in civilian terms, making it easier for colleges to read and recommend credits.

In addition to military benefits, service members may be eligible for grants, loans, tax credits and deductions that can help make education affordable.

Federal grants and loans

Tax credits and deductions

  • American Opportunity Tax Credit is a yearly credit of up to $2,500 per student for certain expenses paid during the first four years of college.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit is a credit of up to $2,000 per year for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, for an unlimited number of years.

Tuition and fees deduction can reduce taxable income by up to $4,000.

Student loan interest deduction is up to $2,500 of the interest paid on certain student loans.

By learning about and taking advantage of all of the opportunities to pay for an education, service members will be in a good position to prepare for — and fund — the education and training necessary for a successful and rewarding career.

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