Army National Guard Offers a Way to Pay Federal Student Loans

One of the Army National Guard’s best selling points is its ability to help pay for its Soldiers’ educations.

There are many paths to earning a degree without incurring a ton of debt or any debt at all, like the Guard’s Federal and State tuition assistance programs, but one benefit the Guard offers – the Student Loan Repayment Program – can pay down balances on Federal student loans a Soldier already has.

CPT Peter Brookes, the Enlisted Incentives Program Manager with the Army National Guard, explains: “The gist of it is that we pay 15% or $500 a year of the overall Federal student loans you have when you join the Guard, up to $50,000, inclusive of interest for a 6 year commitment.”

The most important caveat for the program, says CPT Brookes, is that the money goes to the lending institution – not the Soldier. Also, it’s not a one-time check to the lender. For example, for a Guard member who has $50,000 in Federal student loans, the Guard would pay 15% per each individual loan of that balance, up to $7,500 per year.

The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) applies to only Federal loans. State loans and private loans do not qualify.

There are also requirements associated with a Soldier’s status within the Guard. Different standards apply for new Soldiers coming in with no prior service, Soldiers who have prior military service, and those who are already serving in the Guard.

CPT Brookes says for anyone new coming into the Guard, there are three basic eligibility requirements for SLRP – Soldiers must be high school graduates who are moving into a vacant position in the Guard and have a minimum Armed Forces Qualifying Test score of 50 and established Federal student loan debt.

As of this writing, CPT Brookes says new Soldiers can pick one of three incentives between SLRP, the Montgomery GI Bill Kicker, which is $350 a month that goes to a Soldier who’s enrolled in college, for up to 36 months, or a Non-Prior Service Enlistment Bonus for $7,500.

Some of those incentives can be combined with the Guard’s education benefits, which CPT Brookes describes as “unparalleled.”

“When you consider that for the vast majority of us, [Guard service] is a part-time job, it’s pretty phenomenal, he says. “I can’t even think of a civilian equivalent out there for education benefits for a part-time job.”

Not only can Soldiers take advantage of potentially earning free degrees through State Tuition Assistance Programs (programs vary by State), “you can still go and get your [Montgomery GI Bill] Kicker as well,” says CPT Brookes. “So basically you’re getting paid to go to college.” outlines all of the Guard’s benefits, but CPT Brookes says recruiters are the best source for information on benefits, incentives, or bonuses that apply to each State.

Your local recruiter can also help you decide on the job you’ll train to do in the Guard, called your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). For more information on Guard careers, check out our job board, where you can research more than 150 options in fields ranging from administration, to infantry, engineering, military intelligence, and more.

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Falling Through the Cracks is NOT an Option

Young Woman in the LibraryFalling through the cracks is a bad thing that can happen to good people. No one wants to do it and no one just lets it happen, but happen it does. All too often someone becomes a statistic, whether by perpetuating a cycle of poverty or simply not living up to their intellectual and earning potential. This is not about socio-economic class, race, or gender. This is about Americans denied the opportunity to live the American dream for one reason or another. But there are ways to plug the cracks, and the best way to do that is through higher education.

During the past couple of months, On Your Guard has told you about the benefits of going to college and how you can access education benefits that can pay up to 100 percent of your tuition, and how you can participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) while simultaneously attending college and serving part-time in the Army National Guard. But that’s just the beginning. The Guard doesn’t stop there. We want all of our Soldiers to have access to their own American dream.

For those with existing college loans – So you’ve already accrued some college loan-related debt and are just now hearing the call to serve your State and Nation. That learning is valuable, so it makes sense to reward you for the education you’ve already achieved. For just such a situation, the Guard offers a Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) that could repay up to $50,000 on existing student loans.

For those in a hurry – Would you be interested if the Guard could help you save money and graduate from college faster? Of course you would. That’s why the Guard offers College Credit Exams, which enable students to earn college credits for what they already know.

Through CLEP (College Level Examination Program); DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests); and ECE (Excelsior College Examinations), Guard members can test out of courses by demonstrating knowledge comparable to that of someone who has completed the classroom coursework. Thousands of colleges award credits based on these exams and testing fees are waived for Guard members, thus enabling you to test out of courses, earn the credits, and possibly graduate faster. And if you want to become a teacher, DANTES even funds Levels I and II of the three-part PRAXIS Series™ tests used in many teacher licensing certification processes.

For those who need help – No matter what your education level currently is, everyone needs a little help from time to time. You see, the Guard wants you to better yourself through education whether you left high school before completing your course requirements, are preparing for the SAT, or are working toward an advanced degree. If you didn’t complete high school, the Guard’s GED Plus program can prepare you for the GED examination so that you can earn that diploma. If you are studying for college entrance exams, the Guard can help prepare you for the ACT and SAT and even provides its members with free academic testing. And through the National Guard Education Support Center, Guard members can receive automated degree planning, college credit assessments, cost-free virtual counseling, distance education alternatives, and free test-out preparation.

Clearly, the Army National Guard is prepared to make a significant investment in your education and your career to make sure you are not one of those who fall through the cracks. The only question that remains is whether you’re willing to make a similar investment in your State, your Nation, and your future.

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