The military provides educational benefits in the form of multiple tiers: Tier I, Tier II and Tier III. The difference between them can mean the difference between whether a military education is the best option for you, or if it's an option at all. The tiers are broken up according to the educational level of the enlistees, and enlistees that fall into the second or third tiers will face certain obstacles when they try to get funding for higher education.
This tier is comprised of enlistees that have earned their high school diploma. GEDs do not qualify, and diploma equivalents that were earned through home study courses may or may not be acceptable depending on state law.
Whereas 90 percent of applicants fall into Tier I, most of the rest fall into Tier II. This tier includes GEDs, home study courses, technical certifications, as well as other forms of alternative or high school equivalent education.
Enlistees that fall under Tier II need to score at least 50 on the AFQT, and their odds of receiving aid hinge mostly on the branch of the military that employs them. The Army allows 10 percent of their candidate to receive Tier II benefits, whereas the Air Force has a limit of less than one percent per year. The Marines are in the middle at 5 percent, and The Navy matches the Army with 10 percent. The Coast Guard requires Tier II candidates to have prior military service, and they also set the bar higher on the AFQT, requiring a minimum score of 50 prior to entering the Coast Guard and 65 afterward.
Anyone that hasn't completed a high school diploma or attained an alternative credential would fall under Tier III, but the military rarely enlists anyone that would qualify for Tier III benefits. Prospective enlistees should attain at least 15 college credits in order to qualify for one of the higher tiers.
What Benefits Are Available?
The current G.I. Bill allows some servicemembers to attain a full scholarship. In fact, it will cover the cost of a four-year program at the most expensive state college within their state of residence. Private schools will usually run over the amount allotted per servicemember, but vocational training and two-year degrees are also covered.
Enlistees must serve at least 90 days of active duty to qualify for any benefits, and anyone that's discharged due to a service related injury or who's served three years qualifies for full benefits. Those that have been enlisted for 10 years may be able to transfer their benefits to their spouse or child, and there are various other benefits given to soldiers under the current G.I. Bill:
- Housing Aid: Those that have not been assigned military housing and who are enrolled in classes at least part-time qualify for a monthly stipend when they're not on active duty. The average payout is $1,200, but it varies depending on the zip code and the cost of living.
- Academic Supplies: Servicemembers can receive upward of $1,000 for textbooks and supplies depending on their specific program.
- Academic Help: Those that need outside tutoring can receive up to $100 per month, although the total amount that can be requested is capped at $1,200.
- Licensure and Credentialing: Some servicemembers opt for positions that either don't require a degree or that require a license or professional certificate as well as a degree. In either case, the process costs money, and the G.I. Bill will cover that.
Who Should Get a Military Education?
The military isn't as dangerous as the movies make it out to be. Most people that enlist are either given desk jobs or they're never called to serve in a dangerous location. Even so, there is always an element of risk involved, and no one should enlist under the assumption that they won't have to fight.
For anyone that can tolerate the risk, it's at least worth considering. It's one of the easiest ways for the average person to attain a full scholarship, and the benefits that are available to both servicemembers and their families enable some people to create better circumstances for themselves than they'd be able to on their own. This is a decision that requires a lot of thought, but the US takes better care of its servicemembers than it ever has before.
Gia Pembroke writes for higher education blogs nationwide. She recommends www.militarydegreeprograms.org as a great resource for students interested in finding the best degree for military.