Hot Topics, February 2006 - EARNING a degree or certificate can be expensive. The Army provides programs to help Soldiers make the payments. They include:
Tuition Assistance Program. Department of Defense tuition assistance policy allows Soldiers to receive 100 percent TA, or up to $250 per semester hour, whichever is less. The annual ceiling is $4,500.
TA is authorized for all Soldiers and may be used in support of Soldiers’ professional and personal self-development goals. Soldiers may request TA to pay for courses offered in classrooms, online, by correspondence, and by other nontraditional means.
To receive TA, Soldiers must identify an educational goal (i.e., a specific degree). Education center counselors are available to assist in helping Soldiers set educational goals. TA may be authorized on a course-by-course basis for courses that apply to the Soldier’s goal. Soldiers sign a statement of understanding before receiving TA to verify that the Soldier understands the benefits and obligations of using TA.
TA must be requested in sufficient time for approval and processing before registration in the course. Procedures vary by service component. Soldiers should contact their servicing Education Center well ahead of time for information. For contact information visit: www.aces.army.mil/aces/ACESsitesALL.asp.
Starting April 1, 2006, active-duty Soldiers will be able to request Tuition Assistance online at www.GoArmyEd.com.
Testing. Many educational tests are available to Soldiers through the testing section at their installation Education Center.
Many tests-for-credit, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), are available. Ask at your local Education Center for a list of CLEP tests. These tests are free and available to Soldiers. Most colleges accept CLEP, but you should check on your college’s policies regarding this. For Soldiers who have acquired college-level knowledge in a subject through reading, hobbies, or life experiences, this could be the path to building up promotion points and college credit quickly.
College entrance exams, the SAT and ACT, are available for Soldiers. Check with your college first, as some colleges do not require them at all, many colleges are specific about which of these they will accept, and Soldiers may only take one of these exams at no cost.
EDUCATION centers do not administer the Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT and Graduate Record Examination or GRE general graduate entrance exams. However, funding on a reimbursable basis is available for these, subject to certain restrictions. Before scheduling the exam, Soldiers should contact their local education centers for full information regarding the funding process and restrictions.
Certification examinations in many professional fields can be administered at your local education center. Most of these examinations require extensive job experience and Soldiers must pay for most of these examinations. If you’re looking for a specific industry-recognized certification examination, ask personnel at your education center if it’s on the list of tests they can order.
In addition to educational tests, many education centers also administer Army personnel tests.
Montgomery GI Bill. The Montgomery GI Bill is available to active-duty and reserve-component service members who meet the eligibility criteria outlined in Title 38, U.S. Code, Chapter 30. The law requires the active-duty Soldier’s pay to be reduced $100 a month for 12 months. This money is nonrefundable. Once eligible, Soldiers may receive up to 36 months in education benefits. The benefit may be used for:
- College courses, technical/business/vocational schools;
- Residence/correspondence courses;
- Apprenticeship and on-the-job training;
- Work-study programs, cooperative programs;
- Flight training
Eligible active-duty Soldiers must have:
- Entered active duty for the first time on or after July 1, 1985;
- Served 24 months on a two-year enlistment and 36 months on a three-year or greater enlistment, or 24 months of continuous active duty, with no service break, as per U.S. Code Title 10;
- Received a high school diploma or equivalency before applying for MGIB benefits;
- Received a fully honorable discharge; and
- Never declined MGIB.
Montgomery GI Bill. MGIB benefit rates can be found at www.gibill.va.gov/education/rates.htm. First-time users of MGIB benefits must fill out Department of Veterans Affairs Form 22-1990, “Application for Education Benefits,” available at www.va.gov/vaforms.htm. For more information on MGIB, call toll free (888) 442-4551 or visit www.gibill.va.gov.
The MGIB-Selected Reserve Program is available to Army National Guard and Reserve members. Current MGIB benefit rates can be found at www.gibill.va.gov/education/rates.htm. First-time users of MGIB benefits must fill out Department of Veterans Affairs Form 22-1990, “Application for Education Benefits,” available at www.va.gov/vaforms.htm. For more information about the MGIB, call Toll Free (888) 442-4551 or at www.gibill.va.gov.
Army College Fund. The Army College Fund is an initial-enlistment incentive offered to applicants who meet certain criteria and enlist for a critical or shortage Military occupational specialty. It supplements the Montgomery GI Bill and must be included in a Soldier’s initial-enlistment contract. When combined,the ACF and MGIB can award a Soldier as much as $50,000 in veterans education benefits.
Tuition Assistance Top-Up. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty Program was amended in October 2000 to permit what’s called a Tuition Assistance Top-Up benefit. This allows active-duty Soldiers to use MGIB benefits to pay the portion of tuition not covered by TA. To be eligible for the Top-Up benefit, the Soldier must be eligible for TA and MGIB active-duty funds. The amount of the benefit is limited to the amount the person would receive for the same course if regular MGIB benefits were being paid. In no case can the amount paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs be more than the total cost of the course.
Soldiers intending to take expensive courses using the Top-Up option should consider whether they plan to take additional training after leaving the service, since they’re likely to need MGIB benefits then, too. To apply for Top-Up, Soldiers must:
- Request TA through an education counselor.
- Complete an application for VA education benefits, VA Form 22-1990, at www.va.gov/vaforms/. Annotate “Top-Up” in item 1A under “MGIB Active Duty” block and on top of the form.
- Send the TA approval form, with signatures of approving officials listed, and application for VA education benefits to the VA regional processing office at the address indicated on the form.
IF Army TA pays for 100 percent of tuition, Soldiers will not need to use TA Top-Up. When the per-semester hour tuition cost is above $250, Soldiers may use Top-Up.
Licensing and Certification Benefit. The Department of Veterans Affairs will award up to $2,000 for licensing and certification tests that are approved for MGIB benefits. Reimbursements can be granted for tests taken on or after March 1, 2001. Soldiers may receive this benefit if they are eligible for the MGIB Active Duty, Veterans Education Assistance Program or Dependents Educational Assistance. For more information and application guidelines, go to www.gibill.va.gov/.
GI Bill—Vietnam Era. The Vietnam Era GI Bill, also known as Chapter 34, is authorized under Title 38, United States Code. Chapter 34 was offered Jan. 31, 1955, through Dec. 31, 1976. Chapter 34 benefits expired on Dec. 31, 1989. However, Public Law 98-525 may authorize some individuals to qualify for conversion to the current MGIB. For more information, see an education counselor or visit www.armyeducation.army.mil/GIB_Vietnam.html.
VEAP. The Veterans Education Assistance Program was offered Jan. 1, 1977, through June 30, 1985. The program matched service members’ contributions, which could not exceed $2,700 on a $2 to $1 basis. The maximum benefit available is $8,100. First-time users of VEAP benefits must submit Department of Veterans Affairs Form 22-1990, “Application for Education Benefits”, available at www.va.gov/vaforms.htm. For more information about the VEAP, call toll free (888) 442-4551 or visit www.gibill.va.gov.
Loan Repayment Program. The Loan Repayment Program is a special enlistment incentive the Army offers to qualified applicants at the time of enlistment. Under the LRP, the Army will repay up to $65,000 toward the remaining original unpaid principal of a Soldier’s qualifying student loans. The LRP must be guaranteed in the Soldier’s enlistment contract on DA Form 3286-66. For more information about the LRP, visit www.armyeducation.army.mil/lrp.html.