How to Use Army TA to Pay for College
In 2019, the Army Tuition Assistance Program (often abbreviated as “Army TA”) offers tens of thousands of dollars in tuition assistance to virtually anyone who joins the Army (Officers, Warrant Officers, Enlisted Personnel, Army Reserve and Army National Guard), as long as they’re on active duty.
Army TA benefits are basically the opposite of Army Student Loan Forgiveness Program benefits, since TA pays for courses you haven’t yet taken, and SLRP benefits pay for courses you’ve already completed.
Ideally, you should aim to leverage both programs to get the maximum value out of your military education benefits.
Is TA Still Available?
Before you have a panic attack, yes, TA is still available, and it should be available throughout the entire year.
However, you should get your TA application in as soon as possible, because the Army Times recently reported that Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler called TA program “expensive” and said that it may require “some refinements”.
To me, that sounds like diplomatic speak for saying that benefits are likely to get cut in some way, perhaps by tying them to length of service, rank, or some other element, reducing the chance that you can use them.
The longer you wait to take advantage of this program, the less likely you are to get approved for it.
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Am I Eligible For TA?
If you’re in the Army and on active duty, then answer is almost certainly “yes”.
TA program benefits are provided to virtually everyone, including Officers (which sets this program apart from many other military education benefits programs, since they tend to only be available to enlisted personnel).
The following positions are eligible to receive TA benefits:
- Active Duty Officers
- Active Duty Warrant Officers
- Active Duty Enlisted Personnel
- Active Duty Army Reserves Personnel
- Active Duty Army National Guard Personnel
How Much Can I Get?
The Army TA Program offers up to $4,000 per fiscal year in tuition assistance benefits, but it’s also limited by a semester credit hour cap of $250 and a quarter credit hour cap of $166, meaning that if you attend an extremely expensive school (one with semester hour costs over $250 or quarter hour costs over $166), you’ll be forced to foot that part of the bill yourself.
TA benefits will cover up to, but not exceeding:
- $4,000 per fiscal year
- $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
- 130 semester hours of undergraduate credit or baccalaureate degree
- 39 semester hours of graduate credit or masters degree
For your reference, the fiscal year will run from October 1st, through September 30th, so use those dates to plan your educational expenses or you could end up owing some money out of pocket.
To prevent yourself from paying out of pocket expenses, we suggest attending a public school (any one of the many state-run public colleges or universities), since they tend to have significantly lower costs than private schools.
We would also recommend staying away from any of the really big advertisers too, as these schools are typically extremely expensive (they have to pay for all that advertising somehow).
Don’t forget that your TA benefits are limited to 130 semester hours of undergrad credit or baccalaureate degree program credit, whichever comes first, and 39 semester hours of graduate credit or masters degree program credit, again, whichever comes first.
In the case of the graduate/masters credit limit, the semester hour limit applies to all credits taken after you’ve completed your undergraduate degree (though we’re not sure if that includes credits you took that weren’t paid for by TA – this part is unclear).
What Programs Are Eligible For TA?
Tuition assistance benefits are supposed to be used for “voluntary off-duty education programs in support of a Soldier’s professional and personal self-development goals”. What does that actually mean?
It means that if you want to finish your high school diploma, take a certificate program or get an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, you’ll be able to finance at least part of the annual tuition costs via Tuition Assistance benefits.
TA won’t be provided for anyone trying to complete credentials at the same level of education they’ve already finished (meaning you can’t do it to get a Bachelor’s Degree if you already have one) or at a lower level than they’ve already finished (meaning you can’t use it to get an Associate’s Degree if you already have a Bachelor’s either).
Keep in mind that Tuition Assistance will only pay for “mandatory fees that are associated with an individual course enrollment”. Any other fees, like non-refundable fees or fees that aren’t linked to individual course enrollments won’t be covered.
For example, application fees, graduation fees and other education-related expenses that aren’t specifically “tuition” will not be covered by Army TA benefits.
Oh, and this is an important point – TA benefits are now available to both in-person and online courses, which is great for those of you interested in getting your degree online.
How Do I Qualify For TA Benefits?
It’s pretty simple really – as long as you meet the eligibility guidelines outlined above, you’ll qualify for TA. If you’re an enlisted service member, you get TA Army benefits without having to do anything special, but if you’re an Officer, then you will have to pay back the Army with some additional service time.
By law, Officers who receive TA will incur a service obligation of different lengths depending on their status.
- Active Duty Officers incur an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) of two years
- Reserve Component Officers incur a Reserve Duty Service Obligation (RDSO) of four years
The ADSO/RDSO gets calculated from the date of completion of the last course that TA was used to pay for, meaning that it can seem a whole hell of a lot longer than it actually is. Be careful about what you agree to here, as the limitation of $4,500 per fiscal year can mean you’re sacrificing a lot of money if you had an opportunity to get a significant pay increase by leaving the Army.
Unless you’re sure that you want to stay in, and positive that you want to COMPLETE an education program, don’t start taking TA, because even if you only use a tiny bit of it, you’ll get stuck with that ADSO/RDSO, and it won’t be worth your time.
I’ll mention it again here just in case you missed it above – ENLISTED PERSONNEL – you don’t have to worry about any extended service contracts or additional obligations, you can take and use TA with no strings attached.
How Does TA Actually Work?
Getting your TA approved and applied to education costs is pretty simple if you’re attending a school that participates in the program and you don’t end up having to drop or withdraw from a course. If you do, then it gets complicated. Here’s the actual process laid out in step-by-step fashion:
- You request TA through www.GoArmyEd.com before your course date start or before the school’s late registration period. Don’t screw this part up or your TA form request will be denied
- Request TA on a course by course basis. For most Soldier’s, this is the most obnoxious part of the applications process. Since you have to request TA for each specific course you want to take, you might have to do the whole thing a few times per semester. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete this for each TA request you want to make, or you could end up screwed
- GoArmyEd will let you know whether your TA request is approved or not. If it’s not approved, GoArmyEd will let you know why and tell you what you need to do next to try and get it approved – if that’s even possible
- If you end up needing to drop or withdraw from a class, you’ll have to do it via GoArmyEd, and you’ll also have to pay for the costs of any courses that you end up not completing, unless you couldn’t complete the class due to military reasons (like because you got deployed, but were enrolled in an in-person course). If that’s the case, you’ll need to request a “Withdrawal for Military Reasons” through GoArmyEd, and you’ll have to complete all the required steps to make sure you don’t get charged for the course’s tuition. This process is extremely involved, so don’t enroll in any courses that you don’t think you’ll be able to finish
- If you want to take a class at a school that doesn’t participate in the GoArmyEd class schedule, you’ll need to fill out a TA Request Authorization form in GoArmyEd’s system. This will get sent to an Army Education Counselor to for review and approval. If you have to do this, make sure to get it in early because it can take a long time to get processed. If your request is approved, you’ll be notified via email. You’ll then need to print out the approved TA Request Authorization form from GoArmyEd and provide it to the school before enrolling with them (which you’ll do directly with the school instead of through GoArmyEd)
- Every year, you’ll need to submit a signed TA Statement of Understanding (TA SOU). If you’re rank E7 or above you don’t need your commander’s signature, but if you’re below E7 then you’ll need to get that on this form before you can submit it. GoArmyEd will send you a notice that they require this form 90 days before it’s due date, so pay attention to that notification or you’ll ruin your chance of getting TA benefits
How Do I Apply For TA Benefits?
Everyone always wants to know where to find the Army tuition assistance form – in fact, it’s one of the most frequent emails that we receive.
Fortunately, it’s easy to find the Army TA form at the GoArmyEd website, and the process for filling it out has become extremely easy since they made it all available over the Internet.
Whether you’re an Active Duty Army, US Army Reserve (USAR), or Army National Guard (ARNG) Soldier, you’ll need to request TA through GoArmyEd, the Army’s official education benefits website. You can start that process by filling out the online tuition assistance form here.
What If I Have Other Questions?
If you have any questions about Army TA or any other military benefits, please feel free to ask them in our comments section below. We’ll do our best to get you an answer within 24 hours. Otherwise, contact an Army Education Counselor, as they are the true experts on these matters.
If you’re interested in finding out about the many other education benefits available to you, please check out our Guide to Military Education Benefits.
Our guide will teach you how to save tens of thousands of dollars in education-related expenses by maximizing your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, qualifying for the Yellow Ribbon Program, and taking advantage of Military Student Loan Repayment Programs.
Disclaimer:Information obtained from Forget Student Loan Debt is for educational purposes only. You should consult a licensed financial professional before making any financial decisions. This site receives some compensation through affiliate relationships. This site is not endorsed or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education.