According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), nearly 22 million veterans and active-duty military personnel live in the United States. Every year, roughly one million of these current and former military service members access some form of educational benefit administered by the VA, and thousands more take advantage of financial support or discounted tuition from military-friendly colleges and universities across the country.
The GI Bill® provides up to 36 months of financial aid for members of the military who served on active duty for at least 90 days following September 10, 2001
One of the largest federal education benefit programs is the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. The GI Bill® provides up to 36 months of financial aid for members of the military who served on active duty for at least 90 days following September 10, 2001. A similar program, known as the Montgomery GI Bill, also provides up to 36 months of education benefits to veterans, reservists, and active-duty personnel. While the Montgomery GI Bill issues a monthly payment directly to the student, the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers up to the full cost of tuition at the most expensive public college or university in a student’s home state. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also provides stipends for housing and other educational expenses.
In addition to these programs, more than 1,900 schools have joined the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) network. Participating colleges and universities commit to accepting transfer credits from other member institutions, reducing residency requirements and providing other forms of assistance. These opportunities make it easier for veterans and military families to earn an online social work degree.
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The Importance of Military Status
Whether or not you are eligible for education benefits depends on your status as a current or former member of the armed forces. Active-duty personnel do not receive a monthly housing allowance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Consequently, they may prefer to attend an online military-friendly college. Understanding your status and your benefit eligibility is important when selecting a school.
Government Benefits for Military Students
The Post-9/11 GI Bill®
The Post-9/11 GI Bill, directed by the VA, is one of the two primary financial aid programs available to current and former members of the U.S. armed forces. Officials created the program to provide more support to veterans and service members than what was available under the Montgomery GI Bill.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is open to service members with 90 days of active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001, or who are still on active duty.
To be eligible for these benefits, you must have served for at least 90 days on active duty after September 10, 2001. You may also be eligible if you received an honorable discharge from active duty due to a service-connected disability after serving 30 continuous days. To check your eligibility and to apply, contact your VA regional office or visit the VA website.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides a maximum of 36 months of postsecondary education benefits. The program covers up to the full cost of tuition and fees at the most expensive public college in a participating student’s home state. It also offers a variable monthly housing allowance, a stipend of up to $1,000 per year for books and materials, and up to $100 per month to pay for tutoring. Participants can use these benefits at colleges, universities, and trade and vocational schools. They may also use them to pay for apprenticeships and other education and training programs. Your benefits expire 15 years from your final period of active-duty service.
The Post-9/11 GI BIll may not cover the full cost of tuition at some private or out-of-state schools. However, through the Yellow Ribbon Program, many military-friendly colleges and universities voluntarily offer additional financial support to veterans and military personnel. The VA then matches the funding these schools provide.
You may be allowed to transfer your education benefits to a spouse or dependent. Generally, you must elect to do so while still on active duty, and you will need to meet additional service requirements.
The Montgomery GI Bill®
The Montgomery GI Bill is the older of the two aid programs for current and former military personnel. Also administered by the VA, this program offers financial support to individuals who served in the armed forces prior to September 10, 2001.
To receive benefits, you must meet minimum service requirements, have a high school diploma or GED, and receive an honorable discharge from service. In addition, you must contribute a minimum of $100 per month for 12 months or make a lump sum payment of $1,200.
Similar to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill provides students with up to 36 months of financial aid. The amount of these monthly payments varies based on the length of your military service, the type of school you attend, and your enrollment status. The maximum allotment is typically around $2,000 per month. This money goes directly to the participating student, who can use it to pay for tuition at military-friendly colleges, universities, or other educational or training programs.
Although the Montgomery GI Bill does offer additional assistance for tutoring, it does not provide any financial support for housing or textbooks. Students must pay for these expenses using their monthly allotment. Participants may be able to transfer their benefits to a spouse or dependent if they meet additional service requirements.
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
The SOC is a network of approximately 1,900 military-friendly colleges and universities approved by the Department of Defense. These schools make it easier for veterans, service members, and their dependents to earn a postsecondary degree.
Because military personnel and their families often relocate, SOC schools must allow students to transfer credits from any of the other colleges and universities in the network. Participating schools also agree to make exceptions for residency requirements, allowing military students to take courses at a number of different institutions.
SOC schools may also provide other benefits to military students. Some participating colleges offer discounted tuition and counseling services specifically for service members, their spouses, and their dependents. Others may grant course credit for military experience and in-service training programs. Military-friendly online colleges allow active-duty students to remain in a program regardless of where they have been deployed.
What Does It Mean for a School to Be Military-Friendly?
While it is not an official designation, military-friendly colleges cater to the unique needs of veterans, service members, and their families. Many of these schools provide benefits to military personnel in recognition of their service. Understanding the full scope of the support you can receive while pursuing an online social work degree is an important part of choosing a school.
Tuition Discounts For Military
As a way to reward and recruit veterans, many schools offer reduced discounts for service members and their families. Since individuals schools voluntarily offer these discounts, tuition rates vary considerably. In lieu of a standard discount for military students, many schools choose instead to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
A military-friendly college recognizes the educational value of your experience in the military. The school may offer course credit for service or allow veterans to test out of subjects in which they have been trained. Schools participating in the SOC network accept all credits from other SOC institutions.
Instead of offering tuition discounts to all military applicants, some schools provide scholarships and other forms of financial support to service members who have excelled academically or demonstrated exceptional leadership potential. You usually must apply to these programs in order to receive an award.
Veterans and service members pursuing a postsecondary degree benefit from more than just financial aid. A military-friendly college may also provide discounted housing, healthcare, specialized career guidance, and counseling services for individuals with physical or psychological issues resulting from their service. Schools may also provide resources to help military students join affinity and support groups.
Students who hope to remain in the armed forces may seek out a military-friendly college with academic programs like military history or military science. Others may choose to pursue a degree in a related field like criminal justice or international relations. Others may use their benefits to start a career in law, medicine, or education.
Flexibility is especially important for active-duty personnel and veterans with jobs or family obligations. Military-friendly online colleges allow students to complete coursework on their own schedules and from their own homes. Students who prefer to study on campus may instead choose a program that offers courses on nights or weekends.
* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.