About Army National Guard Tuition Assistance
By Leslie McClintock
, last updated October 12, 2011
Because the National Guard is primarily administered by state governments during peacetime, each state has a different approach to providing tuition assistance. All 50 states, however, plus Guam and Puerto Rico, provide some form of tuition assistance and other educational benefits to citizen-soldiers who want to further their education while serving in either the Army National Guard or Air National Guard. This is an attractive incentive to enlist in the National Guard, rather than the Reserves.
To be eligible for the tuition assistance programs, you must be a drilling member of a unit, with satisfactory attendance and participation in unit training assemblies. You must also not have a flag barring favorable personnel actions. Specifically, you must be authorized by your commander for reenlistment (if you are enlisted), and you must pass your physical fitness test and height-weight standards for your service. If you don’t make weight, however, you can still meet the standards by means of a tape test measuring your body fat percentage.
In most states, benefits are driven by the cost of tuition at state colleges and universities in that state. Many states, including Florida and Hawaii, offer tuition waivers to qualified members of the National Guard. They may, however, restrict those benefits to those enrolled in a degree program, making satisfactory progress toward that degree.
In most case, tuition assistance will fund master’s degree programs. However, in practice, these benefits are funded only when funds are available. Each state only allocates a specific number of dollars to the program per year, with priority going to soldiers and airmen who do not already have a bachelor’s degree.
Enlisted vs. Officers
The vast majority of Guard officers already possess a college degree. Many of them received their degrees via ROTC scholarships. While officers generally do qualify for benefits, the priority on dollars goes to enlisted Guard members.
Coordination with GI Bill Benefits
Members of the National Guard who qualify can combine their National Guard benefits with benefits they earned under the Montgomery GI Bill. For Guard members who have been mobilized to active duty, they may combine their benefits with those under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The GI Bill also provides a monthly stipend, housing and book allowance to qualified veterans. However, unlike Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, National Guard tuition assistance benefits cannot be transferred to family members.
Student Loan Repayment Program
For Guard members who already have gone to college, the National Guard can help you pay off your student loans. Qualified soldiers and airmen can receive a total of $50,000 in student loan repayment benefits, capped at the greater of 15 percent of the loan per Guard member, each year (maximum is $7,500 per year), or $500 per year.
To enlist in the National Guard, contact a recruiter at 1-800-GO-GUARD, or visit a recruiter’s office near you. If you are already in the Guard, contact your unit administration NCO or unit education officer. They can give you the latest information on benefits available specifically for your state, and assist you in applying. You must also get the approval of your commanding officer.