Military Education Benefits
As a member of the Armed Forces, you have several options to choose from when it comes to education benefits. And with so much funding available, you'll definitely want to look into the different programs being offered. Unfortunately, all that fine print can get confusing. To help you sort through the clutter, we've created the following summary of some of the many benefits available to those who qualify. Each section defines a military education benefit in plain terms and clear language.
1Acclerated Payment Plan (APP)
What Is It?
The Accelerated Payment Program is an offshoot of regular Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits. For those who qualify, this benefit program provides a large, lump sum instead of smaller, monthly installments. The APP is designed for servicemembers who decide to enroll in expensive, high tech courses. It can fund up to 60% of established tuition and fees on a per-semester basis. [i]
Active duty or reservist servicemembers must be eligible for the Montgomery G.I. Bill or REAP in order to qualify for this program.
Also, in terms of program types, applicants must be seeking a degree or a certificate in a scientific or engineering field. Some examples of APP approved fields are biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.
Finally, applicants must intend to pursue careers in a related, technical field. The ARFP offers the following list of acceptable career paths: Biotechnology, Life Science Technologies, Opto-Electronics, Computers and telecommunications, Electronics, Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, Material Design, Aerospace, Weapons, Nuclear Technology.
When Can You Use It?
According the Department of Veteran Affairs, APP is only payable if your actual tuition and fees exceeds 200% of the regular chapter 30 benefit that would be payable. This means that if the 200% test is passed, your accelerated payment would be 60% of the established charges.
Remember, the courses in your program still have to be approved (as per the high technology rule) in order to be eligible for AAP.
2 College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
Also known as Credit-By-Exam Program, this is a provision of the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2004.
What Is It?
CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. A CLEP is a one day test that can be used to replace an entire college class. CLEP exams are a great way to finish your college program quicker. They may also help you save more of your education benefit money if you qualify.
While CLEP exams aren't administered by the military, they're important tests to think about before accessing your military benefits. The exams are funded by the U.S. government through the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).
CLEP consists of a series of examinations that test an individual’s college level knowledge gained through course work, independent study, cultural pursuits, travel, special interests, military service schools, and professional development. The exams are used by colleges to ensure that you know a certain subject, even if you've never taken a college course in that subject.
Take Spanish, for example. Let's say you learned how to speak Spanish at home, or on your own. And let's say that your degree program requires a foreign language credit. You can take the Spanish Language CLEP exam, and if you pass, your school will give you credit. You'll be able to skip that entire class, which might have cost several hundred dollars and several months of your time.
The following groups are eligible for DANTES funds for CLEP exams (one attempt per title):
- Military personnel (active duty, reserve, National Guard): Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army and Air National Guard
- Spouses and civilian employees of: Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Coast Guard (active and reserve)
- Department of Defense acquisition personnel: Eligible only for the following computer-based exams: Principles of Macroeconomics, Principles of Microeconomics, and Principles and Marketing
Where Can You Use It?
According to the College Board, the CLEP exams are administered at over 1,700 colleges across the country and credits are granted and accepted at over 2,900 colleges and universities. [i] To locate your nearest test center, contact your Educational Services Officer or Navy College Education Specialist.
There are certain requirements for members of the military that differ from those for civilian students:
- You need to request your transcript through military channels.
- You may be able to obtain free study materials from DANTES test centers
- You need to bring special ID on test day (“Common Access Card” plus a driver’s license or passport
3 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
What Is It?The FAFSA is an application process, created by the federal government, for all students who are interested in higher education — including both military members and civilians. The application involves a long list of questions about your finances and you family's finances. Your answers help the government to define how much tuition you can fairly be expected to pay.
Schools and colleges can also access the government's determination. Based on that, they will offer you their own awards and packages. Keep in mind that you do not have to accept the loans that you are offered. In many cases, your military benefits, combined with grants and/or school scholarships may fully cover your educational plans. However, you still need to complete the FAFSA, so schools so the government can determine a baseline measure of your situation.
There are a few basic guidelines for FAFSA eligibility:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
- You must have a valid Social Security number.
- You must be registered with Selective Service if you are a man between the ages of 18 and 25.
- You must have a high school diploma, or a General Education Development (GED) Certificate, or pass an exam approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
- You must be enrolled or accepted as regular student in an eligible degree/certificate program.
When Can You Use It?
You can complete the FAFSA before you've even been accepted to a college program. To begin a program in the fall, experts recommend that you apply for aid promptly after January 1, but NOT before the 1st of the year. (If you apply too early, your application will be discarded and you'll have to reapply.) Applying early helps to ensure that you're considered for as many awards as possible. Some schools allocate their financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis.
You must reapply for financial aid every academic year. FAFSA will send you an e-mail, reminding you to renew your application data. Renewal applications are usually quicker and easier than the first one.
Students who are considered "independent" do not need to report their parents' financial information on the FAFSA. And thanks to the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005, any amount of active duty served in the Armed Forces — even a single day! — entitles you to an independent filing status.
Because FAFSA is often a means to get loans, which must be repaid, it can be best not to use this until all of your military-only education benefits have been exhausted.
If you have questions regarding the FAFSA form or application process, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.
4 Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
What Is It?
The Loan Repayment Program is an incentive designed to increase enlistment of recruits who already have college education. Through this program, the service branch repays the existing student loans of new enlistees.
To qualify, the applicant meet the following criteria:
- Must be non-prior service.
- Must be secondary school graduate.
- Must disenroll from the Montgomery G.I. Bill in writing
- Must enlist in one of the critical military occupational specialties (MOS)
- Must possess loans that are made, insured or guaranteed under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Title IV, Part B, D, or E) prior to entry into active duty [i]
When Can You Use It?
On enlistment. The military will repay $1500 or one third of an eligible student loan (whichever is greater) up to $65,000 after a year of service. [i] No payments will be made for delinquent charges or interest amounts that have accrued, nor will individuals be reimbursed for payments already made.
There are certain loans that don’t qualify for LPR, so potential enlistees should make sure their loans are covered prior to signing any enlistment agreements. For example, the following loans are not covered under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Title IV, Part B, D, and E):
- Private loans
- Equity loans
- State-funded loans
- Institution loans
- Consolidated loans for family members [i]
5 Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
What Is It?
VEAP provides education and training opportunities to servicemembers who elected to make contributions from their military pay (while on active duty) to participate in the program. Contributions are matched by the Government on a $2 for $1 basis. The total amount of your contributions cannot exceed $2,700. [i]
Benefits may be available from 1 to 36 months, depending on your number of monthly contributions. You have 10 years from your end of active duty to use your VEAP benefits.
There are certain conditions that you must meet in order to qualify for VEAP:
- You must have entered service for the first time between Jan 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985.
- You must have opened a contribution account before April 1, 1987.
- You must have voluntarily contributed between $25 and $2,700.
- You must have completed your first year of service.
- You must have received an honorable discharge.
- You must have at least 3 months of contributions available if you are on active duty and wish to receive VEAP benefits. [ii]
Your contributions can be withdrawn if you find you do not meet the basic eligibility requirements, or if you decide to formally request a refund of contributions that were withheld.
Where Can You Use It?
Servicemembers who qualify can use their benefits for a many different types of training including:
- Undergraduate or graduate degrees form colleges or universities (including cooperative training programs and accredited independent study programs)
- Certificates or diplomas from business, technical or vocational schools
- Apprenticeship or OJT programs offered by companies or unions
- Correspondence courses
- Flight training (if you have a private pilot certificate and meet the medical requirements)
- Overseas programs that lead to a college degree
Although there are a lot of educational options that you can use your benefits towards, remember to first have a State agency or VA must approve any program offered by a school or company.
If you wish to apply for VEAP, simply obtain and complete VA Form 22-1990, Application for Education Benefits. Then send it to the VA regional office for your state. If you aren’t on active duty, send copy 4 of your DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If you are currently on active duty, you need to get your enrollment approved your Base Education Services Officer (and you must have your service verified by your Commanding Officer).