How to Use National Guard TA to Cover College Costs
Federal Tuition Assistance (commonly abbreviated as “FTA”) is the largest TA benefit available via the Army National Guard’s Tuition Assistance Program (some states also offer their own NG TA benefits), and one of the best reasons for joining or re-enlisting in the Guard.
For fiscal year 2019, FTA will provide up to $4,500 in financial assistance, offering exceptional value to ARNG personnel looking to further their personal or professional goals by pursuing higher education in the form of college, trade school or some other technical training program.
To get the details about the FTA program, find out how to qualify for tuition assistance benefits, and determine whether or not the education program you want to attend qualifies for benefits, read on, as I’ll explain all of this in full detail below.
Current FTA Rates
Army National Guardsman who qualify for FTA benefits will be eligible to receive up to $4,500 in tuition assistance for the fiscal year.
FTA is doled out based on the amount of course hours you’re enrolled in, so you’ll get more financial assistance for taking more courses.
However, there’s a ceiling on the amount of money you can receive per course hour, with maximum payment rates per course hour set at:
- $250 per semester hour
- $167 per quarter hour
- $16.66 per clock hour
Additionally, you can only use FTA benefits to pay for a certain number of credits or course hours, depending on your level of education.
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FTA Maximum Hours
- 130 semester hours of undergraduate credit or a Baccalaureate Degree (Bachelor’s Degree) – whichever comes first
- 39 semester hours of graduate credit or a Masters Degree – whichever comes first
- 0 hours of post-graduate credit (Once you’ve got a Master’s degree, you’re no longer eligible for FTA)
Basically, you can’t use FTA funds endlessly, since you get cut off after 130 undergraduate semester credits, (even if that’s not enough to get your Bachelor’s degree), and at 39 graduate semester credits (even if that’s not enough to earn your Master’s degree).
It might seem like a bit of a raw deal that you aren’t guaranteed coverage for your entire Bachelor’s degree, or Master’s degree, but these limits help insure that FTA funding is being spent wisely.
Who Is Eligible for FTA Benefits?
Enlisted soldiers, Warrant Officers and Commissioned Officers are all eligible for the Army National Guard Tuition Assistance Program, as long as they satisfy the following conditions:
- Members are traditional Guardsman (part-time drilling soldiers), or members on Active Duty Special Work (ADSW) or Agribussiness Development Team (ADT), or mobilized Commissioned Officers
- Enlisted Soldiers agree to remain in the Guard for at least the length of the course being paid for by TA funds
- Officers agree to incur an additional four-year commitment upon completion of TA-funded courses. If this is not completed, TA funds must be paid back to the Federal Government on a pro-rated basis
- Members have a valid expense from an accredited school (see the “What Programs Qualify?” section below for details)
Please note that ROTC cadets on scholarships are not eligible for Federal Tuition Assistance.
Perhaps the best thing about ARNG Tuition Assistance is that TA funding becomes available to Guardsmen as soon as they’ve joined, literally the same day that they become members of the Guard, even before they’ve attended Basic Training and completed Advanced Individual Training.
In fact, FTA funds are even available to Guardsmen who are still in High School!
However, the significantly limiting factor is that Federal Tuition Assistance is not a guaranteed benefit, because it operates on a limited budget, and is offered on a “first come, first served” basis.
What does that mean? If you don’t get your application in early enough, there might be nothing left when it comes time to process your request…
What Educational Programs Qualify?
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not the educational program you want to enroll in will qualify for Federal Tuition Assistance.
As long as the school you’re attending has received regional or national accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education, you should be good to go.
In addition to being offered by an accredited school, the only other limitation on your usage of these funds is that you can’t use them to receive more than one credential from each of of the following education (unless you’re planning on becoming a teacher):
- High School Diploma or equivalent (GED, etc.)
- Vocational or Technical certification and licensing
- Associate’s Degree
- Baccalaureate Degree (Bachelor’s Degree)
- Master’s Degree
FTA funds are also available for both traditional in-person educational programs, as well as distance learning and online programs.
What Costs Qualify for TA?
Unlike some of the other military education benefits, TA funds can only be used for pretty specific expenses, namely, tuition and other authorized fees.
In an official ARNG document explaining TA benefits, the description of an “authorized fee” is one that is “charged to all students for enrollment purposes or is directly related to the instruction of the course”.
The following expenses are likely to qualify for TA funding:
- Tuition Costs
- Enrollment Fees
- Other Fees
All of the other military tuition assistance programs stipulate that “fees must be published, mandatory and charged for course enrollment”, and we’re under the impression that this limitation applies to ARNG TA as well.
Non-refundable fees and any fees that aren’t tied specifically to course enrollments are not covered by TA.
Examples of fees that wouldn’t be eligible for funding include things like application fees, graduate fees, computers, college textbooks, transportation expenses, etc.
Duplication of Benefits
The great thing about ARNG TA is that it can be used in conjunction with other military education benefits, reducing the chances that you’ll end up with out of pocket costs.
FTA funds may be used with:
- MGIB-Selected Reserve (SR), REAP or MGIB-Active Duty (AD) for the same course as long as Guardsmen are enrolled in school at least 1/2 time
- State Tuition Assistance or Post 9/11 GI Bill, but funding may NOT be more than 100% of the actual cost of tuition and fees
- Pell Grant funding, and where Guardsmen are eligible for Pell Grants, FTA will may be used concurrently, and where it is used, it will be applied first
How Do I Apply for Federal Tuition Assistance?
To apply for FTA benefits, make your way to the GoArmyEd website.
If you’ve never used it before, then you’ll need to create a new account, which you can do here.
Here’s how the application process works:
- You’ll request TA through GoArmyEd, prior to both the course start date and the school’s late registration period
- You’ll request TA on a course-by-course basis (each course requires it’s own separate field in the application)
- GoArmyEd will notify you whether or not your request was approved. If it was not approved, they will provide with the reason why, and offer you optional “next steps”
- You’ll need to handle all course changes (drops, withdrawals, etc.) through GoArmyEd. If you fail to complete a class, you’ll have to repay TA funds. If you fail to complete a class due to military reasons (deployment, transfer, etc.), then you’ll need to request a Withdrawal for Military Reasons through GoArmyEd
- If you want to take a course through a school that isn’t a participant of the GoArmyEd electronic class schedule, then you’ll have to complete a TA Request Authorization in GoArmyEd, which gets routed to a traditional Army Education Counselor for review/approval. This process takes longer, so make sure to get your request in early! If your request is approved, you’ll be notified of that via email. You’ll then need to print out the approved TA Request Authorization form and provide it to your school, then enroll directly with the school instead of via GoArmyEd.
- You MUST submit a signed TA Statement of Understanding (TA SOU) form each year that you want to use TA funds. If you’re rank E7 or higher, you don’t need your commander to sign the form, but anyone rank E6 or below will need to have it signed by their commander.
What If I Have Other Questions?
For other questions, please consider contacting your local Army Education Counselor, because they’re the true experts on these matters, and the only people who can speak with any real authority on the issue.
Alternatively, feel free to ask away in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to get you a response within 24 hours.
To find out how to maximize the other education benefits available to you, consider reviewing our Guide to Military Education Benefits as well.
You’ve earned these benefits, so you might as well use them!
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