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In the United States, college tuition assistance is available for members of all military branches, including those serving full-time, in the Reserves, in National Guard units, or students enrolled in a Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) program. To receive Army tuition assistance, a person must sign an enlistment contract with one of these Army units.
Army tuition assistance was first established after World War II with the passage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. This move had a long-reaching socio-economic impact in the US by significantly increasing the average education level of citizens. At its post-war peak in 1947, 49% of all US college students were veterans, most of who would have simply returned to farms or the labor force without this financial option for a college degree. The bill was revamped in 1984 by Congressman Montgomery, and became known as the Montgomery GI Bill. In 2008, the bill was revised once more to offer enhanced education benefits to anyone who has served in active duty since September 11, 2001.
While all Army components are eligible for Army tuition assistance, the benefits and funding methods differ. Regular Army, or those who serve as full-time enlisted personnel, along with activated reservists and guards, are eligible for funding for voluntary, off-duty secondary education. Benefits include up to 100% of tuition, subject to a maximum per-credit-hour rate, as well as a monthly stipend. Classes must be taken at an accredited school, and can be used for bachelor or master degrees. Tuition assistance is also available to assist a soldier in obtaining a high school diploma or equivalency degree if he has not already graduated from a high school.
College students who are interested in entering the military may join the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) for any service branch. Army ROTC members sign an enlistment contract in exchange for Army tuition assistance. They enroll in ROTC courses which are treated as college electives, and train with the Army during the summers. These scholarships are based upon merit, not financial need, and upon graduation the student enters the Army as an officer. Under certain circumstances, the student may be given the option of receiving room and board assistance in lieu of tuition payments.
Army tuition assistance is also available for people who serve in non-active Army Reserve or Army National Guard units. The benefits are not as great as for those who are on active duty or who have served active duty status, but can be very beneficial. In addition to tuition benefits, which pay a percentage of the actual tuition costs, the service member receives a monthly living allowance. In some cases, the student may be eligible for a “kicker,” or additional monthly amount, depending upon his job classification. College graduates who sign a minimum six-year enlistment after receiving their degree may obtain Army tuition assistance in the form of student loan repayments.
One of the concerns some students have is that their college education may be interrupted if their reserve or guard unit is activated. In response, the Army has created the Army Reserve Education Career Stabilization Program (ECS). This program allows a reservist to benefit from Army education assistance while deferring any mobilization and deployment orders until completion of his college degree.
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