Field Guide to the Army National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program
Not everyone joins the military right out of high school. Some people come to the military later in life – after they’ve already taken out a significant amount in student loans. With student loan debt approaching $1 trillion nationwide, this is fast becoming a serious problem for Americans in their 20s and even ‘30s.
The military Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is designed to appeal to recruits who have already invested in college, and perhaps have already received a degree. It’s a good deal for the military, because the get an older, more mature and seasoned recruit, and they get the benefit of that soldier, airman, marine or sailor’s education. The servicemember gets a good deal because the military is still picking up the tab for his or her education.
How the Student Loan Repayment Program Works
There are three basic tiers of eligibility for the Student Loan Repayment Program: one for non-prior service troops (NPS), one for veterans and one for current members of the Army National Guard.
If you have not enlisted before, eligibility criteria is as follows
- Minimum six-year enlistment.
- You must enlist in military specialty designated as a critical skill (CS).
- You must enlist in the grade of E-4 or below.
- You must score a minimum grade of 50 points on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
- You must not be an 09R Simultaneous Membership Program cadet. That is, you cannot be both an ROTC cadet or midshipman and simultaneously an enlisted member of the reserve component, including the Army or Air National Guard, enrolled in the SMP program. You can still join ROTC – you just cannot be an SMP. That is, you must drill as an enlisted servicemember and not as an ROTC cadet.
- You must not be in the RFP or Active First Program
- You cannot be Glossary Non-Prior Service, an Army designation that includes soldiers who served not more than 180 days and never completed any MOS-qualifying school, or advanced individual training (AIT).
For those who are prior service, SLRP eligibility criteria are as follows:
- You must enlist for a term of six years or longer.
- You must enlist in the grade of E-7 or lower.
- You must enlist into an MTOE or medical TDA unit.
- Army troops must have already completed Army basic training or Marine basic training within 1 year of the date of enlistment, if your prior service was with the Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard. Soldiers enlisting in the Army who are prior service with special operations units in Air Force or Navy are exempt from the requirement.
- You must have a score of 31 or better on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT).
- You must be DMOSQ’d (duty MOS-qualified) for your position
- You can only receive the SLRP benefit once.
- You cannot have already received a guaranteed reserve forces duty ROTC scholarship.
- You cannot be enlisting as part of a conditional release from a Select Reserve component other than the U.S. Army Reserve.
Current Members of the Army National Guard
- You must meet all normal enlistment/reenlistment requirements for service in the National Guard.
- You must extend your obligation for an additional six years.
- You must reenlist as an E-7 or below. However, you can still get promoted if eligible, during the enlistment.
- You must be MOSQ’d for your duty position.
- You must have less than 13 years’ time in service as of your current ETS date. That means you can’t contract under the program to get 20 years!
- You must not be a military technician.
- You must not be AGR (Active Guard/Reserve)
- You cannot receive the benefit as an officer if you already contracted for it as an enlisted servicemember.
Student Loan Repayment Amount
The student loan repayment plan repays up to $50,000 in student loans for qualifying servicemembers. This is substantially more generous than the Air Force National Guard’s program, which limits the SLRP to $20,000.
The loan must be not currently in default, and cannot have a zero balance. This means the military is not going to pay off loans for you you’ve already paid off yourself.
The loan must already be disbursed at the time of the contract, and must be a qualifying Title IV federal loan. Generally, the loan must also be at least one year old at the time of the contract.
The SLRP payments don’t go to you: The military sends the money directly to the lender.
If there is a break in service, your eligibility for the SLRP will be permanently terminated. Furthermore, any enlistment for a period of less than six years will terminate eligibility for the program.
As always, benefits in the Army and Army National Guard are subject to change. For the latest, visit the official website for Army education programs, www.goarmyed.com, and subscribe to our blog.