Military Financial Tips #7 College Tuition

Are you considering joining the military to pay for college? Maybe you are on active duty right now and want to start taking college classes.

Here at The Part time Investor I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps right out of High School. I didn’t make my decision to enlist until it was time to commit to one of the universities I was accepted to or choose to go to a local community college. Once I sat down and saw tuition rates along with room and board I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where that money was going to come from. I was too stubborn to ask my parents for help and my part time job was barely keeping gas in an old ’88 Mustang. I was so independent it never occurred to me it would be okay to live at home an attend community college for a couple of years.

I enlisted with the intent to do my 4 years, get out and use my G.I. Bill to go to college. I ended up enjoying what I do and being a Marine which is why I am still on active duty. Over time my perspective changed on my timeline horizon and knew that I wanted to retire from active duty with at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Active Duty Benefits:

Many public and private universities offer reduced tuition rates to active duty military, which typically match the $250 per semester credit hour limit. They usually have at least one person on staff that is proficient in processing TA claims and navigating the financial assistance you are entitled to.

To date I have completed my Associates Degree at San Diego Community College by doing a hybrid of night school and online courses. I worked with a registrar at my Base Education Center to get started. She helped me register, enroll in classes, and process my TA claims. After filling out a FAFSA I got a California Board of Governors Grant (now called the California College Promise Grant) that covered my tuition while at community college.

I am now currently enrolled at Troy University online and tentatively have 3 more semesters left. They too have a strong military support network and a single point of contact that takes care of all the financial stuff. My counselor works with me on making sure I stick to my degree plan and helps me meet my goals.

Afterword I intend to immediately start graduate courses towards a Master’s Degree or graduate certifications. I plan on using my Montgomery G.I. Bill to “Top Up” when my classes exceed $250 semester credit hours or exceed my $4,500 a fiscal year limits. By topping up I will avoid any out of pocket expenses for further tuition. What’s remaining can be converted to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill at a reduced time rate.

Finally, I do pay for my own books and class materials. I have applied for scholarships to offset these costs but have not been awarded any aid to date.

Please feel free to share your experience or ask questions in the comments section below.

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