By Cpl. William Jackson | November 28, 2011
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., -- It’s back. MARADMIN 639/11 has restored the Tuition Assistance program for the 2011 fiscal year. Funding is authorized for vocational-technical, undergraduate, graduate, undergraduate developmental, independent study and distance learning programs.
The Marine Corps is allotted $26 million, which is half of last year’s total disbursement. Take advantage of it now and sign up for classes now before it’s too late and funds run out.
Active duty enlisted and commissioned Marines can utilize up to $4,500 to fund 100 percent of their tuition and fees, including lab, technology, and distance learning fees.
The cost must not exceed $250 per semester hour for undergraduate or graduate courses. While not much of a decrease for undergraduate courses, this is a significant change for graduate courses. On average, yearly TA could cover six or seven classes, depending on the school you choose.
Only officers must return two years of service to the Marine Corps after using tuition benefits.
The process starts off easy enough for interested service members, but things can get a bit overwhelming if you haven’t chosen an education plan. Contact a military representative for the school of your choice first. I would recommend a California state school because they offer in-state tuition for service members stationed here. It’ll help save some money so you can make the most of your benefits.
The school will get you processed with a course track and refer you to every resource that will help you get enrolled for school.
Next, visit the installation’s education center. Sit through a short TA brief by an animated staff member, give a signature and speak with an education service specialist about cheap book websites and free educational programs the Combat Center has to offer.
These include College Level Examination Program Tests, commonly known as CLEPs, DANTES Subject Standardized Tests, known as DSSTs. These all count as college credit hours which saves you time and money. The more help, the better.
Take advantage of as much government support as possible by submitting a free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA. The official website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov will set you up for the Pell Grant, a federal grant that can assist you with up to $5,500 toward any education cost you decide, including gas money to get to class, if you haven’t earned your first bachelor's degree. FAFSA also lets you apply for the Stafford Loan, which promises lower interest rates for eligible applicants.
All in all, it takes a minimum amount of effort to take advantage of all the educational resources we receive as service members. The $4,500 for tuition and fees, along with California in-state tuition rates had me ready to go back to school. The streamlined process to get set up with my classes had a huge role in my decision, too. Whether school is for you or not, the resources are out there, so go ahead and take advantage. You work hard for those benefits.