Tuition assistance is one of the many benefits touted by military recruiters as a great reason to sign up for the National Guard. According to a 2004 survey, education benefits were the most common incentive referenced by those considering enlisting. If tuition assistance is the only reason that you are signing up, however, be wary. Read on for the basics of tuition assistance for the National Guard.
According to the National Guard’s website, the Guard will pay up to $4,500 a year, which adds up to $18,000 for four years, of tuition and fees. This can meet 100 percent of tuition, the Guard’s website says, based on in-state tuition rates. According to the college board, it costs $7,605 per year on average for in-state tuition. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of books, supplies, room and board, and additional fees. According to the National Guard, many state schools offer tuition wavers or scholarships that do much to offset this variance, but be sure to ask around.
There are two other bills, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill that can make a huge difference for those serving in the National Guard. The Montgomery GI Bill sends an additional $300 to guardsmen each month. This money can be used on books, supplies or “anything you want,” according to the National Guard’s website. The Post 9/11 GI Bill can also greatly improve your chances of affording college tuition. Depending on the length of time served after September 11, 2001, soldiers can receive up to 100 percent of tuition as well as an additional $1,000 per month for supplies. This money is also transferrable to any dependents one may have. In order to be eligible, soldiers need to have had at least 90 days of Active Duty.
For those with outstanding student loans at the time of their enlistment, the National Guard can help with those as well. The Student Loan Repayment Program can pay up to $50,000 for six or eight years of enlistment. This program is also a possibility for those who extend their contract for six years.
Finally, if you take the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) elective, you can receive a scholarship that will lower the cost of college. It can also lead to a commission right after graduation as a second lieutenant in the Army. In addition, some monthly stipends are available for cadets who qualify.
It is worth remembering, however, that these benefits require funding in some capacity, and supplying all the post 9/11 benefits to veterans through 2017 will cost $74.7 billion. The unsustainability of tuition assistance, among other benefits for those considering the National Guard is something to be concerned about. If you’re enlisting solely for the benefits, it’s important to recognize the very real possibility that the government might run out of money on you. So make your National Guard decision based on a number of factors and not just the hopes of money and cheap tuition.