The Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program provides financial assistance to Marines enrolling in educational courses, college degree programs and vocational training.
As of fiscal year 2016, Marine Corps TA benefits are back online, and ready to help cover the costs of your educational expenses.
The TA Program is one of the best benefits to joining the Marines, since it offers up to $4,500 per year in funding, which is a considerable amount of money.
However, recent budget troubles have lead to a situation where supply is not keeping up with demand, and many Marines have found their 2013 and early 2016 TA applications denied due to limited funds.
What are the TA Rates for 2016?
If you end up being one of the lucky Marines who receives the full monetary value of this benefit for fiscal year 2016, you’ll be pleased to rake in $4,500.
There are some limitations on the funding though – first off – it isn’t provided directly to you in the form of a check, but sent directly to your educational institution.
Secondly, you’ll receive TA funds based on the number courses you’re enrolled in (and based on how many credit hours those courses qualify for), so only serious students will qualify for the full $4,500 in fiscal year.
Here are the per credit hour funding limits for 2016:
- $250 per semester hour
- $166.67 per quarter hour
- $16.67 per clock hour
What Costs Qualify For TA Funding?
Not all educational expenses qualify to be paid for via the TA program, in fact, it’s pretty restricted.
Technically, TA benefits are only to be used on tuition and other fees required for enrollment in a particular course, but in certain cases, you’ll be able to use TA to pay for:
- Tuition Costs
- Enrollment Fees
- Computer Usage Fees
- Lab Fees
- Other Required Fees
As a further limitation, TA rules state that funds will only be provided to cover fees that are “published, mandatory, charged for course enrollment, and reimbursable in the event the student needs to withdraw from the course”.
Please note also that the cost of books is NOT covered under the TA program.
Who Is Eligible to Receive USMC TA?
Marine tuition assistance is only available to certain individuals, and the restrictions were severely tightened in both September and November of 2013, so you’d better pay close attention to this part before you get your hopes up.
Traditionally, every single active duty Marine and Enlisted Marine Corps Reservist on continuous active duty was eligible to receive tuition assistance, but that was changed with the rules updates in 2013.
Now, it’s much harder to qualify for TA benefits if you’ve never received them before.
2016 Eligibility Requirements
- You must be on active duty for the entire length of the course
- You must be attending an educational institution accredited by a regional, national, or professional accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education (find a list of them here)
- You must agree to provide all grades received in TA-funded courses, and agree to reimburse the Marine Corps for all “W” and “F” grades
- You must have an End of Active Service (EAS), if you’re Enlisted, at least 60 days following the completion of any TA-funded courses
- You must agree, if you’re a Reserve Component Officer, to remain on active duty for at least 2 years following the completion of any TA-funded courses
- You must receive TA authorization before the course has begun
- You must have completed the College 101 orientation program
- You must have no disciplinary actions pending
- You must have an “evaluated” degree plan after using TA for 12 semester hours (or equivalent)
- You must be eligible for promotion
- You must not be in any sort of MOS-related “training” status
In addition to the above eligibility guidelines, there are several new restrictions for those Marines seeking TA funding for the first time.
First-timers will need to satisfy each of the following conditions as well:
- You must have at least 2 years of time in service
- You must have a General Technical (GT) score of at least 100, or take the test of Adult Basic Education and earn a score of at least 10.2
- You may only enroll in one TA-funded course, unless documentation is provided to prove that you have an Associate’s Degree or at least 60-college credits with a minimum GPA of 2.5
- You must complete the Marine Corps Institute “Leadership” Course (Course 8112A, designated for CPLS and SGTS) and “Personal Financial Management” Course (Course ID 3420F, designated for all Marines) before applying for TA benefits
To improve the chances of having your TA application approved, we’d also strongly suggest enrolling in the following programs that the Marine Corps officially “encourages” you to participate in:
- The United States Military Apprenticeship Program
- The College Level Examination Program
- The DANTES Subject Standardized Testing Program
- The Credit-By-Exam Program
- No-Cost Free Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Classes, found here, and here
And, in addition to the suggestion above, we also recommend applying for TA at schools which participate in the following cost-saving programs:
- The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Consortium (SOC)
- The Degree Network System
- The Marine Corps Career College Program
To find out which schools are participants in these networks, click here.
If these requirements aren’t enough to set your head spinning, just wait until you see the restrictions on which programs are eligible for TA funds.
What Programs Qualify for Marine Tuition Assistance?
The good news is that the vast majority of legitimate educational programs are eligible for TA funding, including vocational-technical programs, undergraduate programs, graduate programs, independent study programs and even distance learning or online degree programs.
However, these programs are only eligible if they’re being offered by educational institutions accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
That limits your choices, but, it also protects you from getting screwed over by diploma mills and other schools that provide education or training services that aren’t very valuable in the first place.
The bad news is that just like the restrictions on who qualifies for TA, there is a pretty significant set of restrictions on what qualifies for TA as well.
Here’s a breakdown of the rules:
- TA will not be approved for classes that begin prior to the conclusion of a previously approved course (so, if you’re still using TA for a previous course, you can’t get it for one that starts before this one has been finished)
- TA will only be approved for career and technical education certificate programs that are accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education, approved by the Department of Veterans Administration and which have a signed DOD Memorandum of Understanding
- TA will not be authorized for any duplicate degrees (like a second associates degree, a double major, etc.)
- TA will not be approved for fees related to certifications, license exams, or credentials
- TA will not be approved for non-credit courses, training programs or continuing education and workforce development programs
- TA will not be approved for MOS-required training of any kind
- TA will not be approved for Doctoral Programs or Professional Schools
Other Restrictions on Funding
Because the Marine Crops is having so many funding problems this year, the following additional restrictions have been added to the already-long list of existing eligibility requirements:
- TA funds approved for courses where you withdrew for any reason or received a failing grade will count towards your individual fiscal year maximum
- TA will not be approved after-the-fact. Applications must be submitted and approved before the request courses start date
- TA will not be approved for Marines with open issues in their TA accounts, including incomplete courses, outstanding reimbursements or waivers
- TA will only be approved for two classes or modules at a time for Marines attending vocational or technical certificate programs
- TA will only be approved for one course if your overall GPA falls below 2.5, you receive a “D” in any course during the previous term, or you voluntarily withdraw from any courses during the previous term
- TA approvals are contingent on the availability of funds – once quarterly funds are exhausted (which happened at record speed the first quarter of 2016), approvals will be deferred until the following quarter
Let’s take a closer look at that last one, because it’s perhaps the most significant of the bunch, as it could end up costing you a serious bit of coin.
Here’s how it works – if the Marine Corps has already allocated all the available TA funds for the quarter before they receive your application, then your request will be deferred until the next quarter.
What’s that mean? You will be responsible for paying for the course, and for ensuring that you satisfy all the eligibility guidelines.
The next quarter, when more TA funds are available, the Marine Corps will revisit your application and reimburse you for the funds you spent on any approved courses.
If they don’t approve your application, for any reason, then you’ll be stuck with the bill.
Be careful out there!
How Do I Apply For TA?
To apply for TA benefits, you’ll need to:
- Complete the College 101 Brief, details here, PDF here, PPT here
- Submit a completed Tuition Assistance Statement of Understanding, found here
- Submit a current and up-to-date TA Application Form, found here, including statement of fees from your school
Please note that the above docs may be out of date, depending on when you found this post.
For an extremely helpful guide to handling the application process online, check out this PDF created by MCCS Hawaii.
How Do I Use TA?
If your TA application is approved, you’ll receive email or written notification and will be essentially all set.
Your responsibilities will then be to provide all the required documentation to your school, make sure that you actually pass your classes, and finally, report your grades back to the Marine Corps after the course has ended.
Once you’ve received TA for 12 semester hours (or the equivalent in quarter or clock hours), you’ll need to sit down with an advisor and hammer out an Evaluated Degree Plan.
What Is An Evaluated Degree Plan?
Once you’ve taken 12 semester hours of TA funding, you’ll be required to put together an “evaluated” (basically “approved”) degree plan.
This ensures that the Marine Corps isn’t giving you money for nothing – they want to know that you’re well on the way to earning a degree in something.
The degree plan will need to be put together collaboratively between you and your college advisor, after they’ve evaluated your SMART and other college credits.
The plan lists out all the classes required for you to complete the degree or certificate that you’ve chosen, including what you still need to accomplish in order to graduate.
You won’t be able to receive any more TA funds until your local Lifelong Learning Center has received this plan, so it’s best to take care of this long before you’ve reached the 12 credit limit.
What If I Have Other Questions?
If you’ve got additional questions, the best place to turn would be your local Lifelong Learning Center.
While we’re happy to answer questions in the comments below, we don’t always have access to the latest information, and we do not speak with any real authority on the subject.
However, we can help you maximize your military education benefits, getting the most bang for your buck, and we suggest checking out our Guide to Military Education Benefits to make sure you aren’t leaving money on the table.