Military service comes with many difficult situations and stressors; however, your service can also qualify you for some great opportunities to further or complete your educational goals. The original GI Bill (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) was signed into law in 1944 in order to help military members returning home after World War II pay for vocational or college classes so that they could readjust and find gainful employment. This tradition has continued to this day. Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen today have many resources available to them. Here is a quick guide to start you on your way.
*Check out your installation’s Education Center or Education Services Officer (ESO):
Every base has an education center, an ESO point of contact, or education counselors who can provide you with information concerning all of the education benefits you are qualified and entitled to. And, many education centers offers classes from the local universities on post in the evenings and weekends making it easier for you to attend classes.
*DANTES (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support):
DANTES is a program that helps servicemembers to achieve their educational goals. DANTES offers programs such as distance learning programs, Credit-by-Examination programs, college credit for service transcript programs, career guidance materials, certification programs, and the Troops to Teachers program. Find out about these services at your local ESO or online at the DANTES website.
*Military Tuition Assistance (TA) & the TA “top-up” program:
The Military Tuition Assistance program helps military members finance their education by paying up to 100% for college courses. There are limitations on the how much the TA program will pay per semester credit hour/quarter credit hour and a maximum amount per year. However, if your classes are more expensive, or you are able to take more classes per fiscal year than the TA will cover, you can supplement using the TA “top-up” program which allows you to use your GI Bill to cover any costs not covered by the TA.
*Continuing Education and Foreign Language training:
All services offer continuing education classes and correspondence courses that you can use for free to gain a higher level of understanding for your job. For instance, the Army offers free Rosetta Stone online language programs for active duty servicemembers. You can find information on these classes and programs at your education portal at the AKO (Army Knowledge Online) website.
*GI Bill for Active Duty Members and Veterans:
You can use your GI Bill to supplement your TA while you are still on active duty, or you can use it to pay for your education once you are finished serving in the armed forces. The GI Bill can be used at traditional colleges (undergraduate and graduate degree programs), for technical or vocational courses, correspondence courses, apprenticeship/job training, and some flight training. Most schools have Veteran’s Assistance Offices that can help you with the paperwork, and you can find information on the VA’s website.
*Military Commissioning Programs:
Every service has opportunities open to currently enlisted servicemembers to earn a commission as an officer while still receiving their current benefits and pay. These programs are highly competitive, but once accepted, you can earn a degree or achieve your ultimate career goals without coming out of pocket yourself. Check with your Education Center to find out about programs such as the Navy’s Seaman to Admiral Program (STA), the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP), or the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School.
If you are only planning on serving in the military for a short time, do yourself a favor and take advantage of some of these programs so that when you get out, you are in a great position to enter the civilian job market. And, even if you are making the military your career, continuing your education and earning a degree will not only help you with promotion, but it will make you even more marketable in the private sector after you retire from the military.