Paradoxically, college has become so much more accessible yet much less affordable over the past decade or so. That means that while online technologies and the proliferation of satellite campuses make it easier for qualified students to attend classes, skyrocketing tuition makes paying for those classes harder and harder. It may seem that you either have to be from a wealthy family, be one of the lucky ones to get an athletic or academic scholarship, or commit yourself to years paying off student loans.
Well, let On Your Guard offer another solution: Join the National Guard.
National Guard members are eligible for a variety of programs exclusive to those who have answered their State’s call to duty. In fact, by joining the Guard and serving part-time, combining the programs, and selecting the right school, you can access benefits that could cover 100 percent of your college degree. So, while all your classmates are struggling to pay off their loans post-graduation, you’ll be getting something even better: a paycheck that hasn’t been obligated to loan repayment.
Here’s how you and the Guard can do this:
- Since the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or as it’s more commonly known, the GI Bill, military service has long been a great equalizer when it comes to paying for college. The Bill has gone through many changes in its nearly 70 years of existence, but the core of the legislation has helped millions of U.S. military veterans pay for degree or certificate programs, vocational training, flight training, or apprenticeships. Now known as the Montgomery GI Bill and Post 9-11 GI Bill, it entitles veterans to receive funds to pay for their tuition, books, and living expenses.
- Then there’s the GI Bill Kicker. Whereas the GI Bill is a federally-funded program, the GI Bill Kicker is classified as a State-funded incentive. This means that Army National Guard members must apply and qualify for the funds. If you do, it can provide 36 additional monthly payments for up to four years of traditional college courses, assuming four years of college with a nine-month academic calendar.
- Next is the Army National Guard Federal Tuition Assistance Program. This program, which can be used concurrently with the Montgomery GI Bill, will pay 100 percent of tuition costs up to $250 per credit hour (to a $4,500 maximum per fiscal year running 1 October to 30 September). Go to the right school (i.e., one that charges $250 or less per credit hour) and that’s 18 free credit hours a year. In other words, one free semester of full-time tuition.
- Not to be left out, many States have education funding programs that Guard members can access in addition to the Montgomery GI Bill, Post 9-11 GI Bill, GI Bill State Kicker, and Federal Tuition Assistance. And these are programs available only to National Guard members because of their service to the State. They vary among the 50 States and four territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) in which the National Guard is located. A local National Guard Recruiter is the best source for current information about State-specific benfits.
So there you have it. Four sources that could pay up to 100 percent of your college tuition. Combine this with the other benefits of Guard service (such as part-time service while you’re in school, gaining marketable job skills in one of 200 career fields, or training to be a leader) and the foundation for your future is looking pretty solid.