Military Tuition Assistance Program

If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance (TA) program may be just the benefit you need. TA is available to active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays 100 percent of tuition expenses.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on installation, off-installation, or by distance learning. The institution must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education. Tuition is paid directly to the school by your service branch. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA with either a visit to their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. TA could be used for the following programs:

  • vocational/technical programs
  • undergraduate programs
  • graduate programs
  • independent study
  • distance-learning program


All four service branches and the Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty educational programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers, and enlisted active duty service personnel. In addition, Reservists in active duty status-including members of the National Guard-are eligible for TA.

To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill an active duty service obligation that runs parallel with-not in addition to-any existing service obligation.

Coverage amounts and monetary limits

TA will fund up to 100 percent of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits:

  • not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
  • not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year (October 1 through September 30)

How TA differs from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Education Benefits

While the TA program is offered by the service branches, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008 (also know as the Post-9/11 GI Bill), can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. Also, the Post-9/11 GI Bill funds are available to you for up to 15 years after you leave the military. TA is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.

TA benefits and restrictions

Some of the expenses that TA will cover include:

  • tuition
  • laboratory fees (for example, science, aviation, computer, network user, studio, and shop fees)
  • mandatory course enrollment fees (all fees must be refundable)
  • special fees-such as some supply fees, physical education fees, and distance learning fees and their accompanying Internet fees (all fees must be refundable)
  • computer usage fees (for computer courses)
    NOTE: all fees must be directly related to the specific course enrollment of the service member
    Expenses that TA will not cover include:
  • books
  • flight training
  • taking the same course twice
  • continuing education units (CEUs)

Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses (and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid) if you leave the service before the course ends; quit the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer, or mission requirements; or fail the course.

Application process

Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center or go online to a virtual education center. Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Online applications are required by the Army ( and the Air Force (log on to the Air Force Virtual Education Center through the AF Portal. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:

  • TA may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the U.S that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the U.S. Department of Education accreditation site.
  • TA must be approved by your service’s education center before you enroll in a course.

Top-up program

The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.

  • Eligibility. To use Top-up, you must be approved for TA by your service branch. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD).
  • Application. First apply for TA in accordance with your service branch’s procedures. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for VA education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it one of the education processing offices listed on the form.
  • Other supplemental funding possibilities
    Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members, including:
  • Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study, and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants, and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out more or complete a free online application for FAFSA.