When you join the US Army, you become a part of America’s largest military branch with the opportunity to be stationed in many parts of the world. You can also continue or begin your studies as a soldier.
The following is an overview of military-wide active duty education benefits as well as Army specific resources.
Army Tuition Assistance (TA)
All active duty Army personnel are eligible to receive tuition assistance for in-class and virtual programs. This financial assistance is not a loan and you will not be required to repay it. Army TA is also separate from the GI Bill, but may be used with it, if you choose to use your GI Bill during active duty service.
Army Tuition Assistance is at the discretion of your command and may only be used at schools registered with GoArmyEd. The Army’s focus is on Mission Readiness, not on your degree advancement. That said, some eligibility requirements have become more stringent. Army supervisors must approve tuition assistance requests, and requests may be denied if pursuing a course of study could interfere with your MOS and Mission Readiness. At the right time, Army TA is a great opportunity to help you finish a current degree or achieve certification to help with your next rank advancement or other education and career goals.
Army Tuition Assistance Benefits
Army Tuition Assistance Benefits can cover up to 100% of the tuition and fees related to your degree. The maximum amount awarded is slightly less than the other branches at $200 per credit hour up to 16 credit hours, for a fiscal year total of $4,000. This amount is generally enough to cover most community and state programs, including schools who adjust their fees to help active duty military members from nearby bases pursue higher education. Current Army policy limits TA to 130 semester hours of undergraduate credit, and 39 semester hours of graduate credit. The 39-semester hour limit applies to all credits taken after completion of a baccalaureate degree.
If you need additional funding for the program you are pursuing, you may use your GI Bill or apply for federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant. Your school’s financial aid office can assist you with this and walk you through the process of filling out the FAFSA. The Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation program is government-sponsored and can cancel your current student loan debt if you have served on active duty during combat. The Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP) can repay part of your current education incurred debt. Each of these loan forgiveness and repayment programs have specific eligibility criteria. Talk with your school’s financial aid office about these options and other military scholarships that you may qualify for.
Army TA is designed for certificate programs, associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level courses. In general, to achieve a degree higher than what you currently hold. The purpose of Army TA is not to achieve a lateral degree or an additional degree lower than what you currently hold. Tuition Assistance may also be used, however, to attain your GED. Officers who would like to utilize Army TA may apply but will incur an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO). Terms of service extension vary depending on your circumstance. Consult the AR621-5 for additional eligibility criteria and situational specifications.
Applying for Tuition Assistance (TA) Benefits
Applications must be completed via the Army’s online education platform, GoArmyEd. All TA must be applied for before the start of that semester’s classes. If the application window is not met, the soldier is responsible for all costs. You must apply for TA separately for EACH course and that course MUST be a part of the degree program you are pursuing. Follow these steps when applying for Army TA:
- Go to www.GoArmyEd.com to complete the application process.
- After you apply, GoArmyEd will send you a notice of your approval – if you are not approved, it will give you the next steps or reason why.
- All drop/withdrawl requests are processed through GoArmyEd. If you do not request these in the system you will be responsible for payment. If you need to drop/withdraw due to deployment or other service-related reasons, the request must still go through this portal.
- If you would like to attend a school that is not registered with GoArmyEd, you may request it through this system. However, you need to allow time for your request to be processed. Do not wait until the last minute and be stuck with school costs.
- Finally, each quarter you must sign a TA Statement of Understanding (SOU) and this is also done online.
Limitations on TA
There are limitations to who is eligible for TA and what costs and programs you may use tuition assistance for. Keep the following in mind:
- Fees and costs outside of the credit hour cost are NOT included
- If you are on Army orders to an accredited degree program, you may not concurrently apply for TA to pursue your desired educational goals
- Placement tests or any kind of testing fees are NOT included
- You must be in good standing with the Army – this includes having passed the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT)
- If you do not successfully complete the course, you will be required to repay the Army
- Please utilize your TA benefits while you have enough time left in service to finish said program. Receiving your ETS date is not the time to use TA – this is when you start thinking about your GI Bill
- If you are an Officer, there will be additional service accrued by using this program
- Army Reserve and Air National Guard MAY be eligible for this benefit depending on accrued active duty service time, etc. Please consult the AR621-5 or the Army Human Resource Command for specific eligibility questions.
Placement Exams to Test Out of Classes
Most colleges allow incoming students to take exams to test out of entry level classes for credit. Completion of these exams for introductory classes with a passing grade will earn the student full credit for the course. This can reduce the number of required classes needed to complete your degree. CLEP and DANTES tests are an exception to the testing fees rule and are covered by Tuition Assistance.
Army Credentialing Assistance (CA) Program
This new 2020 program is available for soldiers in addition to Army TA. Go to GoArmyEd to apply for training that leads to credentials, licenses, or certifications under the CA program. Different from TA, fees and school supplies can be covered by CA. Soldiers may not use more that $4000 each fiscal year on combined TA and CA courses. Note: these certification programs do NOT need to be related to a soldier’s current MOS and are an off-duty education opportunity.
The Army Continuing Education System (ACES)
This program is designed to help soldiers study wherever they are. ACES, historically ran by an in-person Army Education Counselor, is connected to the GoArmyEd online platform and run by the Army Human Resource Command. In addition to TA and CA, you can access distance learning, and eArmyU online college courses. More than 1600 certification, license and credential programs that are designed to match us with Army MOS are available free of charge to service members. These educational opportunities are part of the Army Cool program and can be completed during duty hours at the discretion of your command. As more education resources become available, check with your on-base education office. They may be able to provide additional information as the new programs roll out online.
Tia Christopher is a proud US Navy Veteran. Christopher’s writing has focused on explaining military benefits in plain language and helping fellow service members transition from the military. Christopher was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Woman Veteran Champion of Change.
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