What is Tuition Assistance?
Military Tuition Assistance is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its members. Each service has its own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, the application process, and restrictions.
All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education 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, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. 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 has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation. Students must receive approval from their ESO, military Counselor or Service, prior to enrollment to be eligible for Tuition Assistance.
Coverage amounts and monetary limits
The Tuition Assistance Program may fund up to 100% 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, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30
Tuition assistance versus the Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits
While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs 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 known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you after you leave the military. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.
Tuition assistance benefits and restrictions
Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:
- Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee
NOTE: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.
Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:
- Books and course materials
- Flight training fees
- Taking the same course twice
- Continuing education units, or CEUs
Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid if any of the following situations occur:
- Leaving the service before the course ends
- Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer, or mission requirements
- Failing the course
Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center, go online to a virtual education center or click on the following links for each service branch:
Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:
- Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States 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 Department of Education.
- Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.
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, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill — Active Duty.
- Application. First, apply for TA in accordance with the procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it to one of the education processing offices listed on the form.
Return of Unearned Military Tuition Assistance (TA)
Part 1. Policy Statement: Military Tuition Assistance (TA) is awarded to a student under the assumption that the student will attend school for the entire period for which the assistance is awarded. When a student withdraws, the student may no longer be eligible for the full amount of TA funds originally awarded. To comply with the Department of Defense (DOD) policy, Southeastern Illinois College will return any unearned TA funds on a prorated basis through at least the 60% portion of the period for which the funds were provided. TA funds are earned proportionally during an enrollment period, with unearned funds returned based upon when a student stops attending. In instances when a Service member stops attending due to a military service obligation, Southeastern Illinois College will work with the affected service member to identify solutions that will not result in student debt for the returned portion in compliance with the DOD policy.
Part 2. Rational or Purpose: This policy serves to fully inform students receiving military tuition assistance (TA) of the required actions the College must take to comply with the DOD Memorandum of Understanding Return Policy for Military Tuition Assistance (TA) funds rules and align with the return of unearned student aid rules applicable to the Federal Student Aid as required under section 484B of the Department of Education Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Part 3. Scope: This policy applies to all students receiving Military Tuition Assistance (TA) for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
Part 4. Definitions: Military Tuition Assistance (TA) is a benefit paid to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Congress has given each service the ability to pay up to 100% for the tuition expenses of its member. Each service has its own criteria for eligibility, obligated service, application processes, and restrictions. This money is usually paid directly to the institution by the individual services. This policy only applies to this type of educational benefit. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while the student is in the service. This policy does not apply to Veterans or Veterans benefits.
Part 5. Procedures: To remain in compliance with the Department of Defense’s policy, Southeastern Illinois College will return any unearned TA funds through at least 60% of the semester on a prorated basis. The amount of unearned TA that is returned is based on the date of withdrawal from the course. After 60% of the semester has passed, TA will not be evaluated for a return to the DOD. As an institution, the DOD will be billed after 60% of the semester has passed to reduce the amount of incorrect TA funds being disbursed by the DOD to the Southeastern Illinois College. We will only bill for the amount the student earned given their enrollment.
Schedule for returning unearned TA:
16-week Course Withdraw submitted
Before or during weeks 1-2: 100% return
During weeks 3-4: 90% return
During weeks 5-6: 75% return
During weeks 7-8: 50% return
During week 9: 40% return
During weeks 10-16 (after 60% of course is completed): 0% return
8-week Course Withdraw submitted
Before or during week 1: 100% return
During week 2: 75% return
During weeks 3-4: 50% return
During week 5: 40% return
During weeks 6-8 (after 60% of course is completed): 0% return
For courses that have durations differing from those listed above: Unearned TA funds will be returned on a prorated basis, depending on the length of the course. To determine the amount of TA that needs to be returned, the institution will determine the date the withdrawal was submitted, and then divide that by the number of days in the term to determine the percentage of TA that was earned by the student.