2021 Army Tuition Assistance Benefits – How to Pay for Your College Education

The Army offers Soldiers up to $4,000 per year in tuition assistance at up to $250 per semester hour. Certain rules apply.
Advertising Disclosure.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

The Military Wallet has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. The Military Wallet and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on The Military Wallet are from advertisers. Compensation may impact how and where card products appear, but does not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations. The Military Wallet does not include all card companies or all available card offers.

Army Tuition Assistance Program

The Army recently updated their Tuition Assistance (TA) program with a focus on ensuring their Soldiers are more focused on military readiness and training as opposed to spending more time on college classes.

Soldiers will still have the opportunity to use Tuition Assistance to achieve their educational goals, however, Soldiers must first meet more stringent criteria to be eligible to participate in the TA program. The most recent updates to the Army Tuition Assistance benefits program are effective through September 30, 2021.

Army Tuition Assistance Benefits
Big changes are coming to Army TA benefits.

While not everyone will be happy with these changes, the Army was compelled to make these changes to meet readiness goals and to help stretch the ever-shrinking budget.

Let’s dive in and take a look at what the Army TA program offers, who is eligible, which educational programs are covered, and how to take advantage of this valuable benefit.

FY 2021 Army Tuition Assistance Benefits Updates

The following rates are effective immediately and are in place through September 30, 2021.

2021 Tuition Assistance Rates

The Department of Defense authorizes military branches to provide Tuition Assistance benefits of up to $250 per semester hour of credit. However, each branch can specify their own standards within these limitations. The Army, for example, has a slightly less generous maximum benefit for each Soldier.

The Army will fund 100% of the tuition for up to 16 hours of credit, not to exceed $250 per credit hour (for a total of up to $4,000 per fiscal year).

What Does the Army Tuition Assistance Program Cover?

TA covers tuition only. TA will not pay for fees institutions levy, unless authorized by DoD Instruction 1322.25.

This means the Army will no longer pay certain fees, including laboratory and course fees. TA also does not cover certain administrative fees, books, and other fees.

Army Tuition Assistance Eligibility

Perhaps the biggest change to the Army Tuition Assistance program pertains to eligibility requirements. In 2018 eligibility was based on a tiered program, but today it has been adjusted to reflect a Time in Service model.

Now through September 30, 2021 soldiers are eligible for Tuition Assistance Benefits for a Bachelor’s Degree upon successfully completing one year of service following graduation from Advanced Individual Training (AIT). Soldiers are eligible to use TA for a Graduate Degree with the same service requirement, provided they did not use TA for their Bachelor’s Degree. If they did, they have to wait until they had 10 years of service before being eligible to use TA for a graduate degree.

Additional Army TA Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for TA benefits, Soldiers must:

  • Soldiers can use TA for up to 130 SH for a bachelor’s degree and up to 39 SH for a master’s degree.
  • The 39 semester hour limit applies to all credits taken after completion of a baccalaureate degree.
  • Soldiers can’t use TA to pursue a second bachelor’s degree or doctoral degree, nor can they double up and request TA while they are on orders in a fully funded degree program.
  • TA funds cannot be used for placement exams, competency tests, or evaluation for past experience.
  • As other fully funded programs are available for first professional degrees (PHD, MD, JD), TA is not designed for this purpose.
  • To be eligible for TA, Soldiers must meet Army physical fitness test (APFT) and height/weight standards and not have a DA adverse action flag.
  • TA requests must be submitted and approved prior to the first class date, without exception.
  • Reimbursement will be required from the servicemember if a successful course completion is not obtained.

Time in Service and Additional Service Commitments

Any enlisted Soldier using TA must have enough time left in service to complete the courses they are signing up for.

By law, officers who use TA incur a service obligation.

  • Active Duty officers incur an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) of two years, and
  • Reserve Component officers incur a Reserve Duty Service Obligation (RDSO) of four years.
  • The ADSO/RDSO is calculated from the date of completion of the last course for which TA was used.

Eligible Study Programs

Tuition Assistance is available programs offered by accredited schools that are registered with GoArmyEd.

Professional degrees such as a Ph.D., MD, or JD were listed as ineligible for the Army Tuition Assistance program. However, these degrees are required for hard to fill billets and are almost always in high demand.

There are special programs to help Soldiers achieve these degrees.  See your Education and Training Office for more information regarding eligible study programs and schools.

Why the Army Changed The Tuition Assistance Program

Budgets are being crunched from all directions, and each branch of the service has been tasked with doing more with less. The Army TA program was briefly halted several years ago due to the automatic spending cuts that were part of the sequestration.

After the programs were reinstated, each branch took a long look at how they could reduce the budget while still offering their troops education benefits.

Each branch altered their TA program to some degree, with the Air Force making many changes similar to the Army TA Program. The Coast Guard had the most drastic changes, in which they reduced the benefit to a 75% tuition payment with the member paying the remaining 25%. The Coast Guard also reduced the total number of credit hours per year.

Alternative Ways to Pay for College

Army Soldiers who aren’t eligible for the Tuition Assistance program still have options to continue their education while they are serving.

For example, the DoD offers military members the opportunity to take credit by examination tests, including the CLEP and DANTES tests.

Passing these test gives students college credits at a variety of colleges and universities. They can be a great way to reduce the amount of time needed to achieve a degree. I used these extensively while taking classes on active duty. Many colleges and universities also offer credits for military service.

Other ways to pay for college include using the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, military scholarships, federal grants, grants and scholarships from schools, and other tuition assistance programs.

With a little planning, it may be possible to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree with little to no out-of-pocket expense, without using the Army TA program. This would allow enlisted members to complete a Bachelor’s Degree, then begin working on a post-bachelor’s degree without having to wait to reach the 10-year service mark.

About Post Author

Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Reader Interactions


    Leave A Comment:


    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Elliot says

    Used to be that taking those general education classes in political science, psychology, sociology, economics, history, mathematics, science, foreign language, classics literature, and religious studies meant you had academic excellence.

    Now college general education classes are treated like a checklist nowadays to be tested out of via community college credits or AP classes. It’s sad.

  2. james kunz says


    I am seriously considering joining the Air Force, and I’m curious about something from your article. You wrote, “As other fully funded programs are available for first professional degrees (PHD, MD, JD), TA is not designed for this purpose.”

    I was wondering how I could learn more about these other programs. Is this referring to the Post-911 G.I. Bill, or a program that can be utilized while in enlisted as an officer?

    Thank you,


    • Ryan Guina says

      James, Thank you for contacting me. The military has Tuition Assistance Programs that allow service members to take classes while on active duty, and have some or all of the classes paid for (up to the tuition cost per semester hour and annual limits).

      This is separate from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, or the Montgomery GI Bill. There may also be other programs that allow service members to attend specific college programs in exchange for further service commitments. The examples given include professional degrees such as PHD, MD, JD, and other high need degree programs. These vary based on the needs of the branch of service and are highly competitive.

      The best thing to do is speak with a recruiter about your interests and about the various educational programs that may be available.

The Military Wallet is a property of Three Creeks Media. Neither The Military Wallet nor Three Creeks Media are associated with or endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. The content on The Military Wallet is produced by Three Creeks Media, its partners, affiliates and contractors, any opinions or statements on The Military Wallet should not be attributed to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Defense or any governmental entity. If you have questions about Veteran programs offered through or by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at va.gov. The content offered on The Military Wallet is for general informational purposes only and may not be relevant to any consumer’s specific situation, this content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If you have questions of a specific nature consider consulting a financial professional, accountant or attorney to discuss. References to third-party products, rates and offers may change without notice.

Advertising Notice: The Military Wallet and Three Creeks Media, its parent and affiliate companies, may receive compensation through advertising placements on The Military Wallet; For any rankings or lists on this site, The Military Wallet may receive compensation from the companies being ranked and this compensation may affect how, where and in what order products and companies appear in the rankings and lists. If a ranking or list has a company noted to be a “partner” the indicated company is a corporate affiliate of The Military Wallet. No tables, rankings or lists are fully comprehensive and do not include all companies or available products.

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content on The Military Wallet may include opinions. Any opinions are those of the author alone, and not those of an advertiser to the site nor of  The Military Wallet.