While it may seem like a lot to earn a graduate degree — both in terms of finances and time — your time in the armed forces presents a great opportunity to pursue a higher education.
Luckily, there are an abundance of programs offered by the military, by federal and state governments, and by colleges and universities that can help ease the burdens associated with academic pursuits while being deployed.
Be sure to check to see if the college or university you are considering offers admission benefits or special consideration to active duty service members or veterans. Many — if not most — colleges and universities do so. It’s common for colleges and universities to waive admission application fees for service members and veterans, especially for undergraduate degrees. Many graduate programs offer online MBA GMAT waivers for service members who meet eligibility requirements.
Following are three places to start your search for assistance in financing your education.
Consider this the base layer of benefits to help fund your college education. Each branch of the U.S. military offers a Tuition Assistance Program, sometimes called TA, that gives service members up to $4,500 per year for tuition, with limits of generally $250 per semester credit hour. There are some minor differences between each branch’s administration of its tuition assistance program, but these are generally related to eligibility or service obligation rules. The U.S. Army tuition assistance program, for instance, commits active duty service members to two years of obligation upon completion of a tuition-assisted course, and reservists are committed to four years reserve service obligation upon completion of a tuition assistance subsidized course.
If you enlisted in the U.S. military after Sept. 10, 2001, and have accumulated at least 90 days of active duty service or were honorably discharged with disability after 30 days of service, you likely qualify for a host of GI Bill Benefits that can help pay for a college or graduate education. The Post 9/11 GI Bill funds up to 36 months of education benefits for active duty service members, with a few eligibility requirements and limits built in.
A subset of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon program lets colleges and universities partner with the VA to offer additional funding to supplement other education benefits to cover otherwise unmet costs of tuition, room and board. But this is restricted to veterans. Active-duty personnel are not eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program.