Military students face unpredictable schedules, but this doesn’t mean that furthering your education is not an option. In fact, a number of colleges and universities are sensitive to the particular needs of service members. The best online colleges for military members will have a policy that recognizes your unique situation. Here are some tips to finding the online program that’s right for you:
- Learn about their policies. Not all online programs are created equal, and some offer greater flexibility for military students than others. As a military student, you may be deployed with little warning, so find a school that offers leniency when it comes to unpredictable absences, homework delays, or withdrawals. For instance, Strayer University freezes courses for military personnel who are unexpectedly deployed or transferred. They can resume courses at their convenience, without having to start from the beginning.
- Opt for asynchronous programs. Online programs require varying degrees of synchronous participation, meaning that students may be required to attend lectures or participate in discussions at designated times. Other programs offer greater flexibility. Determine whether the online programs you’re interested in will allow you to view lectures and complete assignments at your own pace.
- Look for 24/7 access.While online programs are generally heralded across the board for offering convenience and flexibility, not all offer the same level of accessibility. For instance, some schools may offer tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while others may only offer tech support during regular business hours. Still other schools make learning even more accessible by offering apps that let students access course materials from their iPhone, iPad, or Android phone. Look for a school that lets you access not only course materials, but also school services, at times that mesh with your own schedule.
Using Military Tuition Assistance to Pay for School
Service members can receive Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA), a Department of Defense program, to help pay for their education. Members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard are eligible to participate in this program, although each service determines its own criteria for eligibility. Provisions differ among the different branched of service, but TA generally provides benefits that cover up to $250 per semester hour and $4,500 annually. This money is usually paid directly to the educational institution by the individual services.
Using the G.I. Bill to Pay for School: The Montgomery G.I. Bill versus The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
The Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) and the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill are available to service members to help with education and training costs. Generally speaking, the MGIB is available to all service members and veterans, while the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill provides education benefits specifically to service members who have served in active duty for 90 or more days since September 10, 2001.
The procedures for using your G.I. benefits depends on which G.I. Bill you opt to use. Both will cover college courses, certification tests, flight training, and related education and training programs.
The Montgomery G.I. Bill
Service members are eligible to use the MGIB after they have served at least two years on active duty. However, active-duty members may receive a greater payout if they wait to use their MGIB benefits after they leave the service. Military members who opt to use the MGIB while on active duty will only be reimbursed for their actual tuition and expenses. Those who wait to use the MGIB after they leave active duty service will receive the full payment rate, which could amount to more than $53,000.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
Limitations also apply to active-duty members who want to reap the education benefits of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Under this G.I. Bill, benefits are tiered based on the number of days members have served on active duty. For instance, those who serve 90 days are eligible to receive 40% of total benefits; individuals who serve 18 months can receive 80%; and those who serve 36 months will receive 100% of their education benefits. Factors like the number of credits service members pursue (known as the “rate of pursuit”) and the amount of their tuition may also impact the benefits they receive.