SELECTING A COLLEGE

By:  University of Maryland Global Campus (formerly UMUC)

Choosing the Right School

The first step in choosing which college or university you wish to attend is to understand what field of study makes the most sense for your career aspirations. Consider what industry, or position, you are interested in working in and research the academic-related requirements. For instance, individuals who wish to work in the field of Cybersecurity will likely require a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field.  Once you have narrowed down the education program or training you require, you can search for reputable schools that offer industry-recognized certificates or degrees.

It is likely that there will be more than one school or training facility that offers a program that suits your needs. In this case, take advantage of the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance comparison tool, called TA Decide, which can be found at the following website:

https://www.dodmou.com/TADECIDE/Documents/DOD-TA-DECIDE-Tool_SourceDoc.pdf?t=25

This tool allows users to learn about available education programs and compare a variety of programs, services, costs and benefits at a comprehensive list of schools. Understanding how your benefits will be applied to a related school can help you make an informed decision about which institution is right for you. 

What is Tuition Assistance?

Military tuition assistance is an earned benefit open to eligible members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.  Active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members can also receive tuition assistance.  Tuition assistance is like a grant and does not require the service member to pay it back like a loan. This benefit is paid directly to the college or university by the military service branch.

Are there advisors specifically trained for working with military students?

Other things to consider when selecting a school should include whether they offer specific services for military students. Navigate the school’s website or speak to an advisor.  Having an advisor who is knowledgeable about tuition assistance benefits and who can assist you with navigating the school’s tuition assistance process is vital to your success. Be sure that whatever school you choose has someone on staff who can help answer your benefits-related questions along the way.

Does the school offer Career Services?

Career Services is an important piece of continuing education. Look for Career Services that offer assistance in translating your military experience into civilian terminology, provide the opportunity to participate in mock interviews, and have a working relationship with industry-relevant employers.

Will the school award credit for your military experience?

There are many aspects of your military career that can be transferred for credit at academic institutions. Receiving transfer credit can expedite the amount of time it takes to complete a program, which in turn can minimize the use of your benefits. Peruse the website, or speak to an advisor, to see what credit options are offered for your military training and experience.

Tuition Assistance Annual Limits

All military tuition assistance programs pay up to $250 per semester hour or $166 per quarter-hour.  Each Military service branch has its own annual limits per fiscal year:

·     Army: $4,000

·     Air Force: $4,500

·     Navy: $3,000

·     Marine Corps: $4,500

·     Coast Guard: $2,250

Students should research the total cost of their education per year as tuition assistance may not cover the entire amount due. Certain charges like course material fees are not covered by tuition assistance.  Students should research other means of financial assistance like financial aid or the VA Top-up program (using Montgomery GI Bill or Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits) to cover the difference in tuition cost and fees versus the annual military tuition assistance allowance.

General Eligibility for Tuition Assistance

Servicemembers must attend a tuition assistance orientation, obtain a mandatory degree plan, and submit tuition assistance requests through their respective military service education portals.

·     Army: GoArmyEd.com

·     Air Force: AFVEC (Air Force Virtual Education Center)

·     Navy & Marines: My Navy Education/WebTA

Service members must also maintain academic standards.  Undergraduate students must earn a grade of C or higher per class or will risk recoupment of tuition assistance funds. Graduate students must earn a grade of B or higher or will risk recoupment.

Different branches have different timelines to request tuition assistance.  All timelines are relative to the start dates of classes. 

  • Army: students can request tuition assistance from 60 days to the day before the class start date.  
  • Air Force: students must request tuition assistance 45 to 7 days before the class start date.
  • Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard: students must request tuition assistance no later than 14 days before the class start date.  

Service members looking to use their tuition assistance benefit must keep both class start dates and tuition assistance request dates in mind. Using tuition assistance benefits may seem confusing at first. However, military students are not alone and have resources to help them understand and navigate their benefits.  All military branches have education counselors available either in person at local education centers, via phone, or online through virtual education centers who can help military students understand how to best use their benefits to reach their educational goals

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