Military Tuition Assistance Back Online

Military Tuition Assistance Back Online

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by John P. Aldrich

With the exception of the Navy, the popular Military Tuition Assistance program came to a screeching halt recently due to the Federal Sequestration.  After a congressional mandate and the backing of the President, the Army and Air Force reopened the tuition assistance program, and recently the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard restored tuition assistance to pre-sequestration numbers for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013.  However, we should all expect that 2014 funding of the military tuition assistance program to come under stricter guideline in order for services to keep this valuable program afloat.

The following are some helpful guidelines to using tuition assistance for the remainder of 2013 and into the future:

Use it or lose it:  Don’t sit on the bench expecting that tuition assistance will always be available.  Recent events prove that like anything that is dependent upon public funding is not a guarantee and it is subject to change, so if you have been thinking about starting or continuing your education, you need to get off the sideline and get in the game.

Seek alternative funding:  While tuition assistance is a great benefit, you should consider different sources of funding to continue your educational endeavors.  Consider applying for Federal Student Aid  (FSA).  Not everyone is eligible, but the application is free, and in some cases FSA can be used as an alternative source of funding should military tuition assistance be on the chopping block in the future.  Don’t discount scholarship opportunities either.  Scholarships do take some legwork, but there are numerous opportunities available. Wherever you decide to start your scholarship search, be mindful of marketing scams by “education related businesses” and nefarious colleges.  A great starting point is your local military education center.  Military education centers are staffed by education professionals who are often aware of scholarship opportunities, both local and national.  Another option is to consider applying to one of the services commissioning programs .  Yes, your service obligation will be extended, but if you were planning on staying on active duty, applying to a commissioning program is a great way to continue your career progress.

Credit where credit is due:  Many service members already have a number of college level credits from their military occupational specialties.  To determine the number of credit hours that you may transfer to a particular degree program or the school of your chose, you will need to shop around.   Before looking at available programs or schools, check out your military transcript, Joint Service Transcript & CCAF Transcript, to determine if your records are up-to-date.  Even if you find that you are missing 3-6 SH of potential credit, this can be the difference of hundreds of tuition assistance dollars that you can use to take other classes toward your degree.

Over the years, thousands of service members have benefitted from the military tuition assistance program.  Many completed their degrees and moved on to meaningful careers in civilian life, while others used tuition assistance to enhance their military careers, including gaining a commission.   No matter what path you decide to choose, events like sequestration, troop drawdown, and early retirements are clear indicators that there is no time like the present to get started or continue your educational goals.

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