The Latest on Military Tuition Assistance

May 08, 2013 | Terry Howell

I think it is a good time to see how things have settled out, now that the military tuition assistance fray has ended (at least for now).

Marine Corps Tuition Assistance – Although the Marine Corps was the first to suspend tuition assistance, it seems Congress didn’t notice until the Army announced their decision to suspend TA a couple of weeks later. When the Corps reinstituted TA, they brought it back at the full level as directed by Congress. This means that Marines can continue to get up to 100% TA, with a per unit cap of $250 and an annual cap of $4,500 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Army Tuition Assistance – The Army was not the first to declare the end of tuition assistance, but, their decision made the biggest noise. After drawing congressional attention, and the subsequent order to reinstate, the Army program picked up where it left off, with no new conditions.

Air Force Tuition Assistance – Not long after the Army announced their decision, the Air Force followed suit. Like the Army, the Air Force restarted TA with no new conditions for airmen who want to use their TA benefit.

Navy Tuition Assistance – Unlike the other services, the Navy never stopped their TA program. It is important to note that the Navy has always had more stringent eligibility requirements and a lower cap on annual usage and as a result TA is not as big a hit on their budget as the other services.

Coast Guard Tuition Assistance – Shortly after the Air Force announced their decision to suspend the Coast Guard did the same. Prior to suspending TA, the Coast Guard had a reputation for being the most generous when it came to eligibility – allowing active-duty, reserve, and civilian employees to use the program. However, the Coast Guard was the last service to bring TA back online and when they did, they added some significant eligibility restrictions. Now the tuition assistance program is only open to active duty enlisted E-6 and below and TA can only be used for undergraduate level coursework.

As of this posting, the National Guard and Reserve appear to be the only groups to have lost access to federally funded tuition assistance – unless they are currently activated.

Although Tuition Assistance is back in play, all the service branches made it clear that military tuition assistance is only safe until the end of this fiscal year. Come October 1, 2013, tuition assistance cuts may be back on the table.

A word to the wise – use it while you have it, because you may not have it long.

About Terry Howell

Before becoming the Managing Editor for, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.


  1. where is your citation for the part of national guard and reservist losing federal TA? I am currently a national guard member, and just two days ago I requested tuition assistance without resistance. Even the site for Army TA says nothing about this…

  2. I forgot to mention, I am not activated

  3. Why was my comment erased?

  4. i retired in Aug 2003 and had paid into the Montgomery GI Bill before retiring. I am now too old to go back to school and I'm 2 months away from losing the GI bill anyway, I think. Can I get that money back or transfer it to my teenage child or is it just lost?? Did I have 10 years to use it or lose it?? I guess this is just another way the government recoups money back from us dumn retirees. They get us to sign up for that SBP plan and the life insurance policy for $250,000 and that keeps going up every few years and when I tried to stop it I was told I couldn't unless my spouse died or got divorced – it seems they are just getting their money back from paying us for those 20+ years or so. Thanks for listening

    • I believe you could switch to the 9/11 GiI bill and you would have 15 years. Call the VA and check.

    • Shirley B. says:

      Post 9/11 benefits can be transferred to your child or spouse. You do have 15 years from your last date of separation from the service to use the benefits.

    • You are never too old to go back to school Bob. I am turning 56 in August and just finished my Freshman year at community college. Looking forward to going to summer sessions in a week or so. Will have an Associates degree in about another year . I actually am learning ore than had I gone to college right after high school or left military service.

    • B ob,
      I work for a major university that have a military division and I am very familiar with the do's/don'ts of GI Bill. Since you retired before Post/911 went active, you cannot transfer your benfit to your child. I know, I retired in 2005 and once your MGIB expires, all benefits are gone forever. Use them while you can but I do recommend that you contact the regional VA at 888-442-4551 for further GI Bill guidance.

    • Bob,
      You can't transfer it to a child once you are no longer active duty. It is however never to late to go back to school. Since you didn't retire until 2003 you can elect Post 911 and once you have used up the 36 months of eligibility they will give you at least a portion of the money back that you paid for the Montgomery GI Bill. Post 911 gives you 15 years from the date you retired to use it.

    • Just wanted to chime in that it's never too late to go back to school. I'm 51 using the VRAP program and getting a lot more out of college than when I was a kid. And the other kids don't even make fun of me!
      When you stop growing, you start dying.

  5. Idmtmedic says:

    The army site I saw recently is also still promoting TA with no mention of it being cut after this year? Imagine that?