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Comparing Military College Benefits To Civilian Jobs

Your military service offers fantastic educational benefits. Yet most people do not take advantage of these!

Be forewarned: you are not automatically given your educational benefits - they must be earned. To take advantage of your benefits, it is most important to:

  • Do your job well.
  • Advance in rank (earns you more respect and responsibility).
  • Stay out of trouble.
  • Be Honorable Discharged (if you are leaving the military).

So there you have it, common sense rules. Play by them and you will earn your educational benefits. Below is a table summarizing the most important educational benefits for each service. Read about each program further below.

  Army Navy Marines Air Force Coast Guard
Montgomery GI-Bill and Reserve Bill X X X X X
College Fund * X X X    
College Loan Repayment Program * X X   X  
Student Loan Deferment X X X X X
Tuition Assistance Programs X X X X X


* The college fund and loan repayment program benefits are not automatic; you will need to ask your recruiter if you qualify.

1. The Montgomery GI Bill

The GI Bill gives active duty and veterans over $35,000 (tax free) that can be used for tuition, books, fees, and living expenses while you earn your degree, certification or attend trade school. Once you have completed two years of service, you can use the GI Bill to cover the cost of your while you are still on active duty. Learn More...

2. The Reserve GI Bill

The Reserve GI BILL is for Reserve & Guard Members. Through the GI BILL you can get over $10,000 (tax free) to help with college tuition, books, fees and vocational training or certification expenses. Learn More...

3. Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

In ROTC you can get up to a full four-year scholarship plus an annual stipend. ROTC graduates also enter services as officers. You can try ROTC for two years with no obligation. Learn more about the ROTC in this overview.

4. Service Academies

Service academies offer a quality education with technical and liberal arts majors. Cadets earn a monthly salary while at the academies and earn a commission upon graduation. Acceptance to the academies is competitive.

5. The Army, Navy, and Marine College Funds

The College Fund, also known as a "GI Bill kicker," can give you up to an additional $20,000 for college. Qualifications and amounts vary from service to service. This benefit is available for both Active Duty and Reserve servicemembers. Learn More...

6. College Loan Repayment

The Air Force, Army and Navy all offer Student Loan Repayment programs for qualified candidates. The Army and Navy will actually pay off up to $65,000 of outstanding College Loan Debt! This Benefit is available to both Active Duty and Reserve servicemembers. Learn More...

7. Student Loan Deferment / Forbearance

The U.S. Dept. of Education offers Student Loan Deferment or Forbearance to Active Duty and Reserve (on Active Duty) servicemembers. This means that you would be able to postpone student loan repayment until you make enough money to begin repayment.

8. Tuition Assistance Programs (TAP)

The armed forces Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is a benefit provided to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The military will pay up to $4,500 a year for the tuition expenses to help you go to school while serving your country. That could total over $18,000 in a four year enlistment. Learn More...

9. Top-Up Program

This program allows the VA to pay Montgomery GI Bill participants' tuition and fees not covered by tuition assistance. The amount of the benefit can be equal to the difference between the total cost of a college course and the amount of Tuition Assistance that is paid by the military for the course. In short, if you are on active duty and going to school with Tuition Assistance, but the cost of schooling exceeds the amount of money you receive from TA, Top-Up may be able to cover that money shortage for you. Learn More...

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