Tagged: military education benefits

Obama Proposes Radical Reform of College Financial Aid

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com obama college financial aid reformThe President has outlined a proposal for a sweeping reform of how federal college aid is allocated, which could affect what schools students can afford, after about 2018.

The problem of inadequate returns on college aid has been attracting Congressional scrutiny for some time. Outstanding student loan balances now top $1 trillion and they are still growing, yet a substantial portion of Americans now in their mid-20s and even older have not graduated with a degree. Among those who have graduated, a substantial number are defaulting on student loans, or barely getting by because of a deeply depressed job market for young graduates.

President Obama introduced his plan while speaking to a college audience yesterday in Buffalo, New York. Obama’s plan would tie student aid to a series of metrics on which colleges must compete against each other. Examples would include default rates, affordability and cost, scholarship availability, graduation rates, earnings of graduates, advanced degrees attained, percentage of students receiving Pell grants, and the like.

The Administration plans to push to make the new system effective in 2018, giving colleges a chance to improve their ratings in these key metrics. The extra time will also give federal officials a chance to refine their criteria.

The Obama Administration suggested that extra resources would go to schools that did well on these factors. Specifically, students enrolled at schools that rank high according to the new criteria would receive more generous Pell grants and lower interest on student loans.

Additionally, the President called for taxpayers to fund a bonus for schools that demonstrate that they actually graduate a high percentage of students have received Pell Grants in the past.

The President’s plan also called for more accountability on the part of students. Obama’s proposal would make students show periodic progress, expressed as a percentage of completion, toward a specific degree before the student could receive additional federal assistance.

Veterans may also benefit from a proposal, also outlined within Obama’s plan, to encourage colleges to award credits for professional experiences, life experiences and on-the-job training.


Pay As You Earn

The President also expressed a desire to expand ‘pay-as-you-earn’ programs. These programs tie student loan payments to income. The more you earn, the more you can afford to pay on your student loan. The president’s plan calls for a cap on student loan payments equal to 10 percent of a student’s income.

Critics of the plan are already lining up. Some of the points raised in objection include:

  1. Basing the criteria on graduation rates creates a perverse incentive for colleges to game the system in the worst possible way: By lowering standards.
  2. It would take a new bureaucracy to administer the program and maintain the ranking system.
  3. The rankings could take schools serving remote or hard-to-serve communities and put them out of business altogether.
  4. The system could unfairly penalize colleges that serve nontraditional students. For example, older students with more established, full-time careers are more likely to get sidetracked from their degree program by familial responsibilities and professional opportunities. These could well cause them to withdraw from a degree program through no fault of the institution.
  5. The very fact that the federal government is creating necessarily arbitrary ratings criteria invites the possibility of rent seeking, manipulation and cronyism. Key members of Congress could manipulate criteria to favor colleges in their own districts, for example.
  6. The plan seems tailor made to route federal dollars to traditional state colleges with largely liberal faculties and reliable Democratic Party donors at the expense of colleges in the private sector, who often hire part-time instructors who are actually working in their fields, and who are less likely to be political allies of the President.

Another more indirect criticism is that it won’t matter how good a job these colleges do creating qualified graduates if the economy is not creating jobs to employ them.

At the same time, Congress also has a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure an adequate return on money committed to providing financial aid. Colleges with inordinately high default rates or that do not produce graduates commensurate with the amount of money invested are not providing a great ROI when the same dollar can be awarded to another student with a better shot at success and eventual repayment of the loan.



The President has little authority to accomplish this on his own: At some point, Congress will have to pass legislation for the President to get what he wants. Such an occurrence is not likely as long as the House of Representatives remains under GOP control. 

New GI Bill Reimbursement Rates Effective Today, August 1st

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com GI bill reimbursement ratesThe new adjusted reimbursement rates for GI Bill beneficiaries for the 2013-2014 academic year become effective on August 1st. Here’s a breakdown:

Benefit Cap for Tuition and Fee Reimbursement for Qualified Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs)

  • Private and Foreign Schools: Up to $19,198.31 per academic year, subject to certain exceptions, outlined below
  • Vocational Flight Schools: Up to $10,970.46 (actual net costs).
  • Correspondence Schools: Up to $9,324.89 (actual net costs).
  • Public colleges and universities for state residents: No cap. The GI Bill will cover all tuition and fees for in-state students.



                              Max Charge per Credit Hour            Max fees per term

Arizona                                 $725                                         $15,000

Michigan                                $1,001.00                                  $19,374.50

New Hampshire                      $1,003.75                                   $5,197

New York                               $1,010                                      $12,293

Pennsylvania                          $934                                         $6,110

South Carolina                        $829                                         $2,798

Texas                                    $1,549                                      $12,130


These rates apply to students attending an institute of higher learning in these specific states who have been enrolled in the same program since January 4th, 2011. The VA will pay the lower of actual tuition and fees combined or the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition and fees.

For non-residents, you may be eligible for additional benefits if your school elects to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. To qualify for this program, you must have served on active duty after September 10, 2001, for a minimum of 36 months, in the aggregate, be honorably discharged for a service-connected disability after having served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001, or be a qualified dependent of an eligible veteran and use the Transfer of Entitlement feature under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

You can find a list of education institutions participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program here.


Housing Allowance

Generally, GI Bill recipients enrolled full-time in institutes of higher learning get the same pay as the Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-5 with dependents. The Department of Veterans affairs calculates that based on your school’s zip code, not your address.

There are some exceptions, however, to the VA’s GI Bill monthly housing allowance (MHA) policy:

  • Foreign schools: $1,429.00
  • Exclusively online programs with no classroom component: $714.50
  • ½ time students or less: NO MHA
  • Active duty trainee: NO MHA
  • Transferee spouse of service member: NO MHA


For non-residents, you may be eligible for additional benefits if your school elects to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Books: Post 9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries receive an annual stipend of up to $1,000, prorated based on their enrollment.

For more information, visit www.gibill.va.gov

National Guard TA Benefits

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com national guard tuition assistanceIt’s not just the active duty guys that get tuition assistance benefits from their service. National Guard and Reserve members also qualify, in many cases. The National Guard frequently offers the sweeter educational package, however, since many states supplement federal benefits with additional educational benefits for members of their Air or Army National Guard. These benefits are over and above the federal benefits package, and are especially attractive in states with strong public university systems.

Every state’s benefit package is different, however. Information in this post is believed current at press time, but the benefits offered change from time to time. Also, these benefits are typically supported by limited pools of allocated funds. If you apply late in the fiscal year, you may find that funding has dried up, and you’ll have to wait until the following fiscal year for these benefits.


National Guard TA Benefits

  • The National Guard TA program provides up to 100 percent of tuition costs, up to a maximum of $250 per semester credit hour, or $167 per quarter credit hour.
  • There is a maximum tuition assistance cap of $4,500 per year per soldier or airman.
  • The Guard will pay up to $500 per term of eligible fees. Authorized fees covered by TA are mandatory fees that are associated with an individual course enrollment. Non-refundable fees and fees that are not linked to individual course enrollments (e.g., application fees, graduation fees) are not covered by TA.

The National Guard TA program covers costs, up to the maximums described above, for a high school diploma or GED, for professional licensing programs and certificates, for associates degree programs, bachelors’ degree programs, and for masters degree or professional degree programs. Doctoral programs are not covered by the TA program, though some states may offer state university tuition waivers for PhD students serving in that National Guard.


Eligible Individuals

The National Guard TA program is offered to enlisted ranks, noncommissioned officers, warrant officers and commissioned officers alike. Some states restrict or prioritize their state funding programs to lower ranking servicemembers, such as captains or below.  However, officers who use the National Guard Tuition Assistance Program will incur an additional four year obligation upon completing the course of study. If the officer doesn’t complete the course, he or she may have to reimburse the government on a prorated basis.

ROTC cadets who are receiving scholarships under that program cannot simultaneously use TA benefits, though they may use Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Stay tuned to MilitaryAuthority.com for a state-by-state breakdown of educational benefits extended to National Guard members. 

Field Guide to the Army National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com army national guard student loansNot 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.

Five Hot Jobs for New Grads

Posted by Kelli McKinney

new college graduatesCollege graduations were happening all around us last month. With a little hard work and preparation, all those hours of study will pay off with that most coveted reward: A job.

That’s right –the job market is now full of another fresh wave of newly-minted college graduates just like you. If you haven’t already begun networking, interning, crafting a resume, volunteering and applying for work, now’s the time to get cracking.

In today’s competitive job market, it’s hard to know where to look to find professional, entry-level, well-paying positions.

Below are five solid, professional, entry-level positions for career-minded people who have earned their degree. These jobs are excellent launching pads for careers, have realistic starting salaries and offer potential for long-term professional growth.

And as a bonus, if you are a military spouse or dependent, or if you are planning to leave the service in the next year or so, working towards a degree in these fields can still pay off down the road. They are all expected to remain as hot jobs for the next few years.


Web Designer

If You Are: A hybrid, as keen with the technical as you are the creative. You stay abreast of technological developments, are deadline-oriented and enjoy teamwork.

And You Have: A bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science or related field.

Then You Can: Design Web sites and develop Web applications.

Salary and Growth Potential: Entry level Web designers generally earn a median salary of $50K. Those with more experience usually gain greater responsibility, including managing staff and more complex projects.


Computer Programmer

If You Are: An adept creator and problem solver.

And You Have: A bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Then You Can: Write and develop computer programs.

Salary and Growth Potential: Entry-level computer programmers typically earn a median salary of $54K. Those with a successful track record can grow into supervisory or managerial roles with additional responsibilities.


Database Analyst

If You Are: Someone with superb attention to detail and a methodical approach to problem solving, with a knack for uncovering project requirements and underlying needs.

And You Have: A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Then You Can: Develop, coordinate and manage databases.

Salary and Growth Potential: Entry-level database analysts generally earn a median salary of $55K. Solid performance usually results in advancement to supervisory and managerial level.


Environmental Engineer

If You Are: An inquisitive person with excellent research skills who loves both the environment and problem solving.

And You Have: A bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Then You Can: Engineer solutions that work to control environmental health hazards.

Salary and Growth Potential: Entry-level environmental engineers usually earn a median salary of $52K while working with more experienced engineers. Successful performance will yield additional responsibility.


Marketing Coordinator

If You Are: An observer and appreciator of behavioral trends with keen research and strategic skills.

And You Have: A bachelor’s degree in business, marketing or economics.

Then You Can: Assist with product or service demand forecasting, demographic analysis and campaign planning.

Salary and Growth Potential: Entry-level marketing coordinators earn a median salary of $49K. Strong performance and experience can result in advancement to manager, director or vice president.


Regardless of the job field, an investment in your education is an investment in your growth potential. If you haven’t selected your degree program yet, research areas that are a good fit with your personal strengths, interests and career development potential.

Military students can also prepare by discussing their transition into school or civilian workforce with a transition counselor.

Find a school that fits your education goals with our School Finder and start planning your new career now! 

GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act Advances in House

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

GI Bill Tuition Fairness ActThe GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 advanced to the full House Veterans Affairs Committee on April 25th. If ultimately passed, the law would allow veterans attending state schools as GI Bill recipients to qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of residency. Educational institutions that do not comply would be disapproved for GI Bill funding.

The law was first introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida) and Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and currently has 42 cosponsors, 24 of whom are Democrats. So the bill has strong early support on both sides of the aisle.

The legislative affairs director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Against the War lent the organization’s support to the bill at a hearing if the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this month, delivering the following statement:

Because of the nature of military service, service members are required to move around according to the needs of their service. Typically that means they are forced to settle down and reside for years in communities outside of their original state of residence. Service members who are stationed at a particular base or post may live in that state for years, buy a home in that state, shop and pay local taxes to that state, raise a family in that state, and generally become part of the community in that locale. However, that service member is technically still not considered a resident of that state. So if he or she retires or ends his or her term of service in that state and wants to stay local and go back to school as a new veteran in the place where he or she has already functionally settled, that service member would nevertheless be considered a non-resident as a new veteran there and would be forced to pay the often-exorbitant out-of-state tuition rates for his or her education there.?? 

Veterans who wind up living in an area outside of their home states through no fault or choice of their own because of the obligations associated with serving their country in uniform should not be denied the opportunity to use their deserved and earned education benefits to cover the full cost of their education in an area where they have already become functional – but not technical – residents simply because of their military service. This bill would remedy that gap in tuition and residency fairness and ensure that all veterans can take advantage of the promise of the Post-9/11 GI Bill without undue hardship.

The bill also has the support of the American Legion.

“This proposed bill would correct an unfair and widespread financial burden for America’s veterans,” states James E. Koutz, national commander of The American Legion. “Veterans’ education benefits have been capped at $17,500 per academic year, and that is often not even close to covering out-of-state tuition costs. By automatically granting in-state status to student veterans, Congress would remove a difficult burden from our men and women who served their country honorably in uniform.”

The full text of the bill is available here.

Possible downsides include the possibility that some state school systems may find it unfeasible to grant in-state tuition to so many GI Bill recipients. This could be particularly true of certain in-demand, high-status state universities. If they don’t play along, and get their eligibility for GI Bill funding pulled, veterans looking to attend those schools – especially those midway through their degree programs, would be seriously and negatively affected. However, no known education associations or other lobbying groups have weighed in formally against the bill, which enjoys widespread support among powerful veterans organizations.

Moving the Goalposts: Army Slashes GI Bill “Sharing” Program

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Army Slashes GI Bill “Sharing” ProgramYou want to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a family member? You must now sign on for an additional four-year hitch. The new requirement applies no matter what your time in service is. Retirement eligible? You’ve already done your 20? Tough. Sign on for an additional four years.

That’ a significant shift in policy: Up until the April 15th announcement, you could transfer benefits to family members with an additional service requirement of one to three years, and in some cases, zero years. The new policy is effective August 1st.

That’s right: The Army and the other services except for the Navy tried to save money last month by eliminating the Tuition Assistance program – until they got smacked by Congress. Now they’re looking for other ways to lower their education/benefits bill. A recent Army Times piece indicates that Congress is quite willing to consider further cuts to pay and benefits, as the federal government moves to tighten up its defense outlays.

Meanwhile, spouses and children benefiting from the transferability of Post-9-11 GI Bill benefits make up about a fourth of all GI Bill educational benefits recipients, an increase of 13 percent over the previous year, according to reporting by Navy Times.

This is going to weigh heavily on soldiers who had planned to transfer benefits to children who don’t start school until the fall semester or later. Money these soldiers planned on using for their own childrens’ education has now gone up in smoke, unless they extend their time in service.

However, according to the Army’s Human Resources Command, soldiers who transfer benefits and who are then involuntarily separated because of a reduction in force will not have to repay the VA for these transferred benefits.

In addition to the RIF exception, the Army also announced the following exceptions: 

  1. The death of the soldier.
  2. Discharge or release from active duty for a medical condition which pre-existed the service of the soldier and was not service connected.
  3. Discharge or release from active duty for hardship.
  4. Discharge or release from active duty for a physical or mental condition not a disability and that did not result from the soldier’s own willful misconduct, but did interfere with the performance of duty.

 More details are available on the Army’s website.

Vet Creates Own Path with G.I. Bill Benefits

Posted by S.E. Davidson Parker

Robert E. Lee did it in order to map the “impassible” Pedregal during the Mexican-American War.

George S. Patton did it in order to take Messina Palermo (oh, those garbled messages…).

fire fighters in trainingAnd now it’s Emmett Middaugh’s turn. It took a year of phone calls, paperwork, and determination, but Emmett Middaugh and the Forest Grove (Oregon) Fire and Rescue created the first on-the-job (OJT) training program in Oregon for students interested in firefighting that allow them to collect VA educational and training benefits.

Emmett Middaugh is studying full time for two associate degrees, fire protection and EMT-paramedics, while also volunteering for a 24-hour shift every three days at Forest Grove Fire and Rescue. That doesn’t leave much time for paying employment. By developing an approved program with the VA, student/volunteer fire fighters are eligible for not just benefits during school terms; if they continue volunteering (now an OJT program), veterans may be eligible for additional (non-school term) benefits through the VA.

Middaugh is the only person in the Oregon program so far. However, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry Brad Avakian is hoping to use this program as a template for other military-to-civil service transition programs in Oregon, as well as sharing these types of programs across the nation.

So what does that mean for you? It means the VA is willing to listen to ideas by veterans that can assist veterans. As the cliché goes, “the sky’s the limit.” Contact your local VA office as well as your school’s office of veterans’ services to see just how to proceed and who to speak with to make your program dreams a reality.

Pentagon moves forward in restoring Tuition Assistance

Posted by Debi Teter

describe the imageThe Pentagon announced yesterday that it is reinstating Tuition Assistance programs which had been cut for the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force as part of the sequestration cuts.

An amendment blocking the tuition cuts was passed as part of the continuing resolution funding bill pushed through Congress last week. President Obama signed the measure into law Tuesday. 

The bi-partisan amendment was sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan (D – N.C.) and James Inhofe (R – Ok). The continuing resolution bill did not reduce the $46 billion in overall cuts the Pentagon must make to comply with sequester, but it did give the DoD more flexibility in shifting funds into its operations and maintenance accounts. 

So for all of you military students out there, it’s time to hit the books again!

Pass The Bill or the Troops Get It: Army Abruptly Suspends Tuition Assistance Program

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Tuition Assistance cutsThe Army abruptly suspended its popular Tuition Assistance Program, effective Friday, March 8th, citing the combined budgetary constraints of sequestration and the looming potential expiration of the continuing resolution that funds Department of Defense operations and activities only through March 27th. Troops currently in school could finish out their terms, stated Army sources. But no new applicants would be accepted after 1700 Eastern Time on March 8th. (UPDATE: Even if you got in a registration prior to 1700 ET on the 8th, don’t expect it to be funded. An Army spokesperson informed us that funding had already been cut off. – Ed.)

The news came out with less than 24 hours to go before the deadline, and the notice and sent soldiers around the world flocking to computer terminals, trying to get in their applications. 

(UPDATE: Even if you got in a registration prior to 1700 ET on the 8th, don’t expect it to be funded. An Army spokesperson informed us that funding had already been cut off. Why the confusion over the deadline? According to the spokesperson, the Army intended to give no notice, specifically to avoid confusion. But Military Times got wind of the impending decision, forcing the Army to go public with the news sooner than they intended, and were forced to rush some of the communications. Hence you had soldiers standing in line trying to get their applications in on Friday. – JVS.)

The news affects all components of the U.S. Army, including the Reserve and National Guard.

The news only affects the federal Tuition Assistance program itself. Other popular veterans and military education programs are not affected at this time. Soldiers continue to pursue their educational goals with VA education benefits, if applicable, that include the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty, (Chapter 30), Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606, Reserve Education Assistance Program (Chapter 1607), The Post 9/11 GI Bill, federal grants and federal financial aid. National Guard soldiers may also be eligible for state Tuition Assistance benefits.

Last fiscal year, some 201,000 soldiers in the Army alone enrolled in the Tuition Assistance program. The program provided $373 million to soldiers pursuing their educational goals. Using the program, 2,831 soldiers earned associate’s degrees, 4,495 earned bachelor’s degrees, and 1,946 completed graduate degrees. On average, that equates to about $40,229 per degree earned.

The U.S. Marine Corps has also suspended its tuition assistance program, and also announced that the cuts would also interrupt benefits for those already enrolled. The Air Force and Navy have not yet decided to do so, though the Defense Department has urged the service chiefs to consider slashing their funding for the program.

Sailors and airmen interested in participating in the program should enroll now, as the other services will likely follow suit in the next few days.

While troops putting their lives on the line are having their benefits cut, the Government continues to provide for the Lifetime Learning Credit and the American Opportunity Credit – both of which provide a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for attending college to those who meet the strict income thresholds.

Enlisted Ranks Hardest Hit

Nearly all officers already have bachelors’ degrees, though some enroll in the Tuition Assistance program to pursue graduate degrees. Officers who do so incur an additional service obligation, in exchange.

The program has a flat cap of $4,500 per enrollee for all ranks. That $4,500 value is a much greater percentage of compensation for a junior enlisted soldier or NCO than it is for officers. They are less likely to be able to afford to pay out of pocket for their educational expenses than officers. Lower-ranking troops will likely feel more pain from the decision than the officer corps.

Alternative Resources

The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides up to $2,500 per student each year for up to four years of college, while the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 annually. There is no cap on the number of years a taxpayer can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit. The income threshold for the full American Opportunity tax credit is an adjusted gross income of $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). Your credit amount is reduced for any amount you earn over those thresholds, and disappears entirely for those with incomes of $90,000 for singles and $180,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Most troops can qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (though if all your income is tax-free combat zone income it might not do you much good).

The Lifetime Learning credit is a credit equal to 20 percent of the first 10,000 of qualified tuition. Credit eligibility begins to go away at an income of $47,000 per year for single individuals, and phases out completely at $57,000. For married couples, the thresholds are $94,000 and $114,000, respectively.

GI Bill

Soldiers can also use the GI Bill to pay for higher education courses, rather than tap into TA. However, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars points out, though, Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill have different missions. The Tuition Assistance program was developed to make it easier for discharged servicemembers to integrate into the civilian work force. Congress intended for the GI Bill education funding to benefit troops themselves, personally. The Tuition Assistance Program, on the other hand, was developed to benefit the military – under the assumption that the military would benefit from a more educated force.

In other news, the Obama Administration has announced that it intends to give some $450 million in foreign aid to Egypt. The Department of Defense is also providing matching contributions to civilian DoD employees who make contributions to their Thrift Savings Program. And the State of Colorado is all set to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition while denying it to out-of-state American citizens and legal residents.