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The GI Bill: College and the Military

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If you’re contemplating joining the military but also want to attend college, you may be able to do both and have your college education paid by the government. Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 into law following the Second World War, the United States government has helped millions of Americans go to college.

Veterans returning home from World War II were commonly called GI’s, and the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act became known as the GI Bill of Rights. The original GI Bill ended in 1956 but its legacy continues in the current Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

According to student loan provider Sallie Mae, the U.S. Armed Forces offer several programs which provide students with money to attend college. Students can choose to serve in the military first and attend college later, or attend college first and serve in the military later.

Serve in the Military before Attending College

Depending on the program in which they are enrolled, students will receive their school expenses paid for in return for an active duty tour. Students that serve part-time in the Reserves can receive a lesser amount of money in return for commitment of one weekend per month and two weeks per year for training.

Military service involves extensive training in numerous areas, some of which may help students eliminate the need to take certain required college courses. According to the College Board, the Department of Defense will pay for active-duty service members and veterans to take CLEP exams, tests which cover material taught in courses typically required during the first two years of college. CLEP policies vary from college to college, but if students receive a satisfactory CLEP score they may earn college credit without taking the course.

  • CLEP exams are funded by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, for eligible military personnel and civilian employees. Service members have been able to take DANTES-funded CLEP exams at college test centers without paying the exam fee; however service members are required to pay the test center registration fee to the college that provides the service.
  • Veterans can claim reimbursement for CLEP exams and exam administration fees under provisions of the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2004.

Attend College before Serving in the Military

Students that wish to attend college before serving the military can participate in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) or attend a U.S. military academy with a Congressional appointment.

  • Students that participate in the ROTC at their college or university are eligible for merit-based scholarships. The Armed Forces will cover tuition as well as pay students a monthly allowance for living expenses. In return, students will enter the military as an officer and serve a minimum of three to four years, depending on the branch of service.
  • The government will pay 100% of the cost of attendance for students that receive a Congressional appointment to a U.S. military academy. These appointments are extremely competitive and consist of full four-year scholarships, supplemental paychecks, four-year degrees, and a guaranteed job after graduation. Students must serve as full-time members of the military during school and must commit to five years of service after their graduation.

For More Information:

While it’s safe to say that serving in the military is not the answer to everyone’s financial worries about college, it does provide millions of people with the opportunity to earn a college education and serve their country.

Montgomery GI Bill

Post-9/11 GI Bill



Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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