Education and training rate among the most cherished military benefits. The most well-known program, of course, is the GI Bill, which most military members in good standing qualify to receive after serving a short period on active duty. But the GI Bill is actually more valuable to most service members after they separate from the military. The good news is each service offers Tuition Assistance benefits to their active duty members. And the benefits are quite good—I used tuition assistance benefits to take classes on active duty while I was in the US Air Force. Between Tuition Assistance and testing out of classes, I was able to achieve my degree in less time than I could have if I would have taken classes at a traditional college.
The US Marine Corps offers similar Tuition Assistance (TA) benefits as the Air Force (which I used when I was on active duty). However, there may be some slight differences on the administrative side. For example, the Air Force just made a few changes to their TA program, as Airmen are now required to receive permission from their supervisor to take classes. Let’s take a look at the current Tuition Assistance benefits for Marines.
US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Benefits
The US Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program, also known as the Marine Corps Lifelong Learning Program, has similar limits per semester or quarter hour of credit, and per fiscal year as the Tuition Assistance Programs in the other branches of service.
Here is the maximum amount paid for Marine Corps Tuition Assistance: 100% Tuition and Fees, not to exceed:
- $250 per Semester Credit Hour, or
- $166 per Quarter Credit Hour, and
- $4500 per Fiscal Year
Does your Tuition exceed your Tuition Assistance Limits? You still have options. The numbers above only reflect the limits TA will pay. You can often find ways to make it work with the school, or by using partial GI Bill benefits as payment. For example, here are some ways you can make TA pay for all your tuition and fees:
- Many schools will reduce tuition costs to match the maximum Tuition Assistance benefit for active duty military members. This is more common for colleges and universities in military communities, and usually only for undergrad work.
- Many military members can qualify for military scholarships, scholarships through the school, or a scholarship through a military service organization.
- Grants may be available to some service members, including the Pell Grant, which is offered by the federal government.
- You can use the GI Bill to pay for any difference in tuition costs. Using the GI Bill in conjunction with Tuition Assistance usually only takes up a partial month of GI Bill benefits, as you are only using it to “Top Up” your TA to pay the difference.
Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Eligibility
Each military branch has different eligibility requirements. As noted above, the Air Force requires Airmen to receive their supervisor’s permission before signing up for TA benefits (along with a few other eligibility rules). The Marine Corps has similar requirements for Marines. Here is the latest list, from the US Marines’ website:
2. Additional TA eligibility criteria. TA is discretionary. An Education Service Officer (ESO) and education support personnel are available at all installations to assist Marines in developing personal and professional education plans and to make informed academic institution selections that support their education goals. Command approval of TA is contingent upon the command’s anticipated mission requirements. Marines shall meet appropriate standards and eligibility criteria, contained herein and Ref A and B, prior to authorization of TA:
(a) First time active duty TA applicants shall have a minimum time in service of 24 months.
(b) all Marines shall be eligible for promotion per Ref B.
(c) prior to TA approval, first-time TA applicants shall complete the Marine Corps institute “leadership” (Course ID 8012b) and personal financial management (Course ID 3420f).
(d) TA shall be authorized for first-time TA applicants for only one course, unless documentation is provided that the Marine has at least an associate’s degree or at least sixty (60) academic credits and a minimum GPA of 2.5.
(e) TA shall not be authorized for classes that begin prior to the conclusion of a previously approved course.
(f) TA funds for approved involuntary withdrawal waivers and failed courses will count toward the individual fiscal year ceilings.
(g) TA shall be authorized for only one course in the succeeding academic term in the event that, (1) overall GPA falls below 2.5, (2) a “D” is received in any course during the previous term, or (3) a voluntary withdrawal occurs from any courses that occurred during the previous term.
(h) first-time TA users with a general technical score of less than 100 shall be required to take the test of adult basic education and earn an examination score of at least 10.2.
(i) TA shall not be approved retroactively. TA applications must be submitted and command approved prior to the requested course start date.
(j) course work with a start date between 15 and 30 September must be command approved by 12 September 2014.
(k) career and technical education certificate programs must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the department of education, be approved by the department of veteran’s administration, and have a signed DoD memorandum of understanding in order to receive tuition assistance.
(l) TA shall not be authorized for duplicate degrees (e.g., second associate degree) or double majors.
(m) open issues in Marine TA accounts, including incomplete courses, reimbursement issues, and waivers, must be resolved and posted to the student record prior to approval of future ta requests.
(n) TA cannot be utilized for fees related to certifications, license exams, or credentials.
(o) in addition to the requirements for officers in Reference A, reserve component officers on active duty orders/mobilization must have an end of active duty status (EAS) date of two years beyond the completion date of the requested class in order to be approved for TA.
(p) enlisted Marines must have an EAS of 60 days beyond the completion date of the course in order to be approved for TA.
(q) TA shall not be authorized for non-credit courses, training programs or programs under continuing education or workforce development. Marines are not eligible to utilize TA for MOS required training, and Marines shall not be approved for TA while in a training status.
(r) Marines attending vocational/technical certificate programs with more than one class or module will only be approved TA for two classes or modules at a time.
3. TA funding management. As of 1 October 2013, the Marine Corps TA funding budget will be divided into fiscal quarters. Once quarterly funds are exhausted, TA approvals will be deferred until the following quarter. When TA funds are available, approvals will be contingent upon the Marine meeting all eligibility requirements and will be limited to classes that begin during that quarter. For example, a class that begins on 15 January 2014 will not be approved for TA until 1 January 2014 and will be funded with available FY14 second quarter funds. TA requests can only be submitted within 30 days of the start date of the class.
Thoughts on Marine Corps TA Eligibility and Restrictions
The Marine Corps has some rigid restrictions on Tuition Assistance eligibility, but it’s important to remember why TA is there in the first place. Yes, it’s a great benefit for active duty Marines, and it’s an excellent recruiting tool. But at the end of the day, the main reason is to make the Marines a better fighting force. Education is a great way to enhance the total education of the Corps, and in doing so, improve total force capability. Most of the restrictions that are in place are there to ensure the limited Tuition assistance dollars go where the Marine Corps can best see the benefits of their investments in their troops. (Remember, it wasn’t long ago when the Sequestration forced most military branches to pause TA benefits).
The limited funds are why Marines need 24 months time in service before they are eligible to participate in the Tuition Assistance program. Similarly, the Marine Corps wants to makes sure their Marines are focused on upgrade training, which explains why Marines aren’t eligible for TA when they are currently in military training (you will find this in each branch). Finally, The Marines and other services limit Tuition Assistance benefits to one of each type of degree, unless it meets mission requirements.
Overall, there are some limitations to the program, but none that are difficult to achieve if you are in good standing, and none that are unreasonable. If you are in the Marines, I encourage you too look into this benefit. This is one of the best deals going.