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Six Things You May Not Have Known About the Military Tuition Assistance Program

Dec 24, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

With frequent deployments and relocations, serving in the military may make it difficult to earn a traditional education. However, the government works hard to make it easy for members of the military to go to school. One of the biggest benefits to joining the military is the tuition assistance.

The Military Tuition Assistance (TA) program is designed for military members who are still serving. The amounts available vary depending on the branch of the military you belong to, but are usually capped at $250 per credit hour or $4,500 per year. Here are just a few things you may not know about the TA program:

Some schools will give you a special tuition rate to match it.

The Armed Forces TA program is designed to pay 100% of tuition and expenses for military members going to school. However, some schools cost more than $4,500 per year.  Certain schools, however, will actually offer military members a special tuition rate that does not exceed TA benefits—and may even include books, a computer, and other necessary items. You may have to talk to the school to find out if this is an option.

See Also: Online Military Education

It’s good for both traditional and online education.

The TA program provides funding for both accredited online degree programs and traditional schools. However, it only provides funding for tuition from schools that are properly accredited. To meet the criteria, the school must be recognized by an accrediting agency listed by the US Department of Education. Check the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) to see the list of approved accrediting agencies.

See Also: Online Degree Programs: Find Your Match

It’s not just for Bachelor’s degrees.

The TA program can help pay for you to earn a Bachelor’s. But it will also pay for you to return to high school, earn a GED, earn a certificate, or get your Master’s.

However, you can’t use your TA dollars to earn another degree at the same level as one you already have—a second Bachelor’s degree, for example. It won’t pay for a doctorate-level degree. And, in some cases, it won’t pay for continuing education.

The tuition assistance is treated—and taxed—like income.

Normally, the TA benefit is paid directly to your school—you are never given a check. However, the federal government will treat it like income you’ve earned. The good news about this is that you don’t have to pay it back; it’s not a loan. The bad news is that it’s taxed like income, too.

If you fail a course, you have to pay it back.

The TA assistance program will pay for individual credit hours and courses. If you don’t pass the course, however, you could be on the hook for the tuition money. You can retake a course you failed, but only after you’ve repaid the money to the TA office. You may not have to pay back the tuition, however, if your failure was due to an unavoidable emergency or a deployment.

Using it means you need to stay in the military for a certain length of time.

In general, if you use the TA program, you must stay in the military for two years after the date of the last class for which you used TA money. The number of years varies, however, depending on your branch of the military. If you’re a reservist, for example, the commitment might be less.

The TA program can do a lot to help you pay for your education. However, it’s not exactly free money. It’s taxed like income, and it comes with certain strings attached. If you don’t pass your class, you must pay it back. And by using it, you must stay in the military for a certain amount of time after finishing your education. Still, the TA program can do a lot to help service members pay for an education.

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