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FSLD’s 2016 Guide to Military Education Benefits

In 2016, the best way to avoid student loan debt is to qualify for military education benefits, then use them to pay for your education costs.

In fact, joining the United States Armed Forces gets you access to the most comprehensive suite of education benefits ever created.

If you want to go to college, but you can’t afford it, then you need to read through this guide, because the programs explained here could save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Military education benefits are serious business, and you’d be a fool to ignore them.

Financial Aid Programs for Military Personnel

There are so many education benefits available to military personnel that it’s possible to get your degree from a fully-accredited, well-respected four year college or university without having to spend a single cent!

Some of these benefits programs are complicated, but all of them are extremely valuable.

In this guide, we’ll tell you what military education benefits programs are available, show you their strengths and weaknesses, then teach you how to apply for them.

Read on to start saving thousands of dollars in education expenses today!

Military Education Benefits Programs

As we mentioned earlier, there are a slew of benefits programs available to military personnel, their spouses and their dependents.

Here are just a few of the most popular, most valuable military education benefits programs available:

The Post 9/11 GI Bill

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is the successor to the ever-popular, and extremely successful Montgomery GI Bill.

Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits provide up to tens of thousands of dollars in financial assistance to military personnel, veterans and dependents enrolling in college degrees or other qualifying educational training programs.

This program is far and away the biggest, most lucrative benefit to serving in the military, and it’s honestly your best bet for avoiding student loan debt.

Benefits of the Post 9/11 GI Bill

This program’s benefits provide so much money in financial aid that it makes it possible to get a college degree without having to pay for any of it on your own, but better yet, these benefits are even allowed to be transferred to spouses or children.

In the modern era, there’s virtually no better way to avoid student loan debt than by joining the military and maximizing your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

If you want a degree, but can’t afford it, then consider the Post 9/11 GI Bill to be your written invitation to the education party.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

Yellow Ribbon Program benefits were created to help protect you from having to pay for out of pocket costs not already covered by standard Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

While the Post 9/11 GI Bill can only cover up to $17,500 per year in educational program tuition and fees, the Yellow Ribbon Program isn’t limited in the amount that it can offer.

The way the program works is that schools and the VA enter into an agreement to pay for whatever costs are left after your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits have been applied to the tuition and fees that you’ll be charged each year.

Your school and the VA agree to split the difference, and they end up covering whatever’s left of your tuition and fees, allowing you to get your degree for significantly less!

Military Tuition Assistance Programs

Each military service branch offers an extremely valuable Military Tuition Assistance Program, helping to subsidize the costs of attending college courses.

This program helps students pay for the costs of attending qualified institutions of higher learning, and is typically used to help reduce out of pocket costs for college or university tuition.

Military tuition assistance was temporarily suspended after the sequestration cuts hit departmental budgets in early 2013, but a recent announcement from the Pentagon (on March 28th) restored the extremely helpful, and now incredibly controversial program.

All soldiers, sailors, marines, guardsmen, airmen and reserves members should now have access to Military TA again.

Scholarships & Grants

All sorts of military scholarships and military grants exist to help military personnel, their spouses and other dependents cover the costs associated with higher education and training.

Some scholarships and grants are offered by private organizations, institutions or even companies, while many other are provided by interest groups, public associations or even endowments.

If you served in any branch of the Armed Forces, then you’re virtually guaranteed to meet the qualification requirements for one or more scholarships or grants programs, but the problem is that they can be extremely competitive.

If you want to get grant or scholarship money, then you’ll need to put in some leg work to earn it.

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges

The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Consortium (SOC) is a group of nearly 2000 colleges and universities who have teamed up to offer more affordable, higher-quality education to military personnel, their spouses and dependents.

SOC schools have all agreed to make the process of transferring college credit easier than ever before, which is especially important for military student and their families, due to re-deployments, re-assignments, and the like.

Get the details on how the SOC can help you by visiting this page: Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges

The Tuition Assistance “Top-Up” Program

The “Top-Up” program is available to help cover the costs of college tuition and fees for amounts that are higher than what would ordinarily be provided under standard benefits from the Montgomery GI Bill or Post 9/11 GI Bill.

For example, if you’re using the Post 9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill to pay for college, but you’re not getting enough in benefits to cover the entire costs of your program, then you could leverage the Top-Up program to get additional financial aid.

Get the details on how this program can help you here: The Tuition Assistance “Top-Up” Program

The DANTES Credit by Exam Program

DANTES Credit-by-Examination is an incredible program created to reduce out of pocket costs for education credentials by offering credit to military personnel or veterans who can prove that they’re already got the knowledge participating undergraduate college courses would provide to them.

For example, if you’re already stellar at math, and you can prove that you’ve learned everything that would be taught in a required undergraduate math class by passing the associated DANTES test, then you’d receive credit for courses in that subject.

This is a huge benefit, saving you both time and money, allowing you to use your existing knowledge to avoid taking redundant classes.

Find out how to get college credit for the knowledge you’ve already got by visiting this page: The DANTES Credit By Examination Program

The Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty)

Before the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, also referred to as Chapter 30, was the main vehicle for delivering education benefits to military personnel, veterans and their dependents.

The MGIB offers up to 36 months of education benefits, which can be used for college degree programs, certificates, flight training, apprenticeships, on-the-job training or correspondence courses, just like the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

MGIB benefits are typically only available for up to 10 years following your release from active duty, however, so if you’ve waited to long to take advantage of them, you may be out of luck.

MGIB benefits have a variety of additional subsidiary programs, just like the Post 9/11 GI Bill, including a Buy-Up Program that gets you additional money each month for a one-time investment.

Find out how to use your MGIB benefits here: Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty Benefits (MGIB-AD)

The Montgomery GI Bill (Reserves)

Like the MGIB-AD, the Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) provides education benefits to military personnel, veterans and their dependents, but this version of the MGIB is only available to members of the Selected Reserve, including the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.

These benefits can be used for the same types of educational programs as the Post 9/11 GI Bill or MGIB-AD programs, and like those programs, they also provide up to 36 total months of education benefits.

MGIB-SR benefits can be used up to 14 years from the date of your first 6-year obligation with the selected reserves.

Find out how to use your MGIB-SR benefits here: The Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserves

The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

The REAP program was created in 2005 with the passing of the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act.

This program provides education benefits to members of Reserve components called up or ordered to active duty for war or a national emergency.

Reservists activated for at least 90 days after September 11, 2011 may be eligible for REAP education benefits.

Get the details on utilizing your REAP program benefits here: Reserve Education Education Program Benefits

The Military Loan Repayment Program (LRP, SLRP & CLRP)

Another program available to military personnel from all service branches is the Student Loan Repayment Program, also referred as the Loan Repayment Program or the College Loan Repayment Program, depending on the branch. For short, these programs are called LRP, SLRP and CLRP.

To sign up for the program, you have to either be enlisting in the military for the first time, or joining the Reserves after completing an active duty role, and your MOS must be eligible for participation (not all of them are).

The Loan Repayment Programs are pretty substantial, and are certainly worth enrolling in if you qualify for it, because they offer thousands of dollars per year in loan repayment benefits, which you can consider to be the equivalent of getting a pretty serious raise.

To find out how you can use the LRP benefits, visit this page: Military College Loan Repayment Programs

The Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)

VEAP benefits are an elective benefit that you’ve got to sign up for and pay into to get any return, but the return on investment is incredible.

For every $1 that you contribute to your VEAP account, the Government will provide $2 of additional money.

There’s no stock, bond or other investment that provides 2:1 guaranteed return on investment, so you should be maxing out your VEAP account 100% of the time.

These benefits can be used for up to 36 months of qualifying educational training, including the same types of programs that your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits can be used for, and you’ll have 10 years from leaving the military to use your VEAP benefits.

Better yet, if you end up not using all of your funds after that 10 year eligibility period, all the money that you originally invested into the account will be refunded to you.

Get the details on taking advantage of this incredible program here: VEAP Education Benefits for Military Personnel

Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)

This program provides excellent benefits, but is not something that you’d want to qualify for.

To receive education benefits as part of the Dependents’ Education Assistance program, you have to be a son, daughter or spouse of a veteran who was killed, totally disabled, captured by a hostile force or detained or interned by a foreign government or power.

If you’ve found yourself facing one of these tremendously difficult situations, then you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this program.

Find out how to claim and use your DEA program benefits here: Survivors’ & Dependents Educational Assistance Benefits

The Work-Study Program

The military work-study program allows full-time and 3/4-time students to “earn while you learn” with a VA funded work-study allowance.

To receive benefits from the work-study program, you need to first file a claim with the VA, but keep in mind that it’s not very hard to qualify for, and that the benefits are significant, so they’re worth the trouble.

While the hourly wage you’ll get from this program isn’t all that great, either the Federal minimum wage, or your state’s minimum wage (whichever is greater), you are able to request being paid in advance for 40% of the hours in your work-study agreement, or for 50 total hours (whichever is less).

Think about this as another opportunity to get paid for something you’d likely already be doing otherwise, and you’ll see this program’s inherent value.

Start receiving work-study program benefits by visiting this page: The VA Work-Study Program for Military Students

The Tutorial Assistance Program

This isn’t one of the bigger benefits packages, but it is an extremely useful one.

Anyone receiving military education benefits (except those enrolled in the REAP program) can leverage Tutorial Assistance to get $100 per month for tutoring services.

While $100 isn’t a huge amount of money, and the maximum payable amount is just $1,200, remember that this is in addition to all the other education benefits that you’re receiving, and that it doesn’t count against those other maximum amounts.

Additionally, you don’t have to pay into this program to receive any benefits, so it’s basically yours for the taking. Not signing up for it, and not leveraging it, means leaving money on the table that you’ve earned, and which you deserve!

Find out how to get benefits from this program here: Tutorial Assistance Program Benefits

Education Benefits by Service Branch

Air Force

  • Air Force Tuition Assistance
  • Air Force College Loan Repayment Program
  • Community College of the Air Force
  • Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC)
  • Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
  • Air Force Aid Society (AFAS)
  • General Henry H. Arnold Education Grand Program
  • General George S. Brown Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP)
  • Family Member Educational Assistance Program



  • Navy Tuition Assistance
  • Navy College Loan Repayment Program
  • Navy Advanced Education Voucher
  • Navy Graduate Education Voucher
  • Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOCNAV)
  • College-At-Sea (NCPACE)
  • Seaman to Admiral (STA-21)
  • Navy Marine Corps Relief Society Grants (NMCRS)
  • Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Scholarship & Loan Program
  • Admiral Mike Boorda Loan Program
  • USS TENNESSEE Scholarship Fund
  • NMCRS Gold Star Scholarship Program
  • Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy Centennial Scholarship Program
  • Joseph A. McAlinden Divers Scholarship
  • Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP)
  • Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript
  • Family Member Educational Assistance Programs

Marine Corps

  • Marine Corps Tuition Assistance
  • Marine Deployed Education Programs
  • Marine Library Program
  • Military Academic Skills Programs (MASP)
  • US MAP
  • SMART Transcripts
  • Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOCMAR)
  • The Navy College-at-Sea Program (NCPACE)
  • The Marine Corps College Fund
  • Navy (Marine Option) Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Scholarship
  • The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) Sponsored Programs
  • The Admiral Mike Boorda Seaman-to-Admiral Educational Assistance Program
  • Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP)
  • Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Scholarship & Loan Program
  • Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
  • Family Member Educational Assistance Programs
  • Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript

Coast Guard

National Guard


Tim's experience battling crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt, where he offers advice on dealing with excessive student loans and advocates a cautious approach to funding education costs via borrowed money.