Of the roughly 22 million current and former military personnel that live in the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that one million take advantage of some form of government-provided educational benefit each year. Thousands of these individuals receive private financial aid or discounted tuition from military-friendly colleges in recognition of their service to the country.
The vast majority of federal aid to military students comes from two pieces of legislation: the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. These two programs have a great deal in common. They both help veterans and service members pursue their postsecondary education by providing up to 36 months of financial assistance. They also both require participants to meet minimum service requirements and allow service members to transfer their benefits to spouses or dependents.
The Montgomery GI Bill gives money directly to the participating student, whereas the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides this funding to a student’s college, university, or training program. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also usually offers higher levels of support, as well as stipends for housing and related educational expenses. Make sure you understand both programs before choosing which one to pursue.
You can also benefit from learning more about Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC). This network of approximately 1,900 schools offers benefits and services designed to make it easier for military personnel and their families to earn an online medical coding and billing degree. Review the information on this page to learn more about government benefits and programs offered by military-friendly colleges.
The Importance of Military Status
Whether you qualify for government financial aid hinges largely on your status as either a current or former member of the armed forces. If you currently serve on active duty, you cannot receive a housing allowance through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This may limit where you can attend college, and you might prefer to enroll in a military-friendly college online instead. Understanding the implications of your status can help you access the benefits you have earned.
- Active-Duty Military: Individuals on active-duty service work full-time for the military. They may live on a military installation, and the government may deploy them at any time. Generally speaking, members of the National Guard or reservists are not active-duty personnel, though they may be called to active duty in emergency circumstances.
- Inactive-Duty Military: Most inactive-duty personnel are members of the National Guard and Reserves. On inactive duty, you may hold one of three levels of reserve readiness, including Ready Reserve, Standby Reserve, or Retired Reserve. If you have not served on active duty, you may not qualify for the full scope of educational benefits offered under the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills.
- Discharged (Multiple Types): When the federal government discharges an individual, they relieve them of their commitment to the military. You can be discharged in eight different ways, and your discharge status affects your eligibility for aid. For example, you must receive an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions to receive tuition assistance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- Retired/Veteran: The VA defines a veteran as an individual who served on active duty and received a discharge under any condition other than dishonorable. To qualify as a retiree from the military, you must serve for at least 20 years and then transfer to the Retired Reserve.
Government Benefits for Military Students
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides millions of dollars in financial aid to veterans and service members. Officials created the program largely to replace the Montgomery GI Bill. However, if you qualify for both, you can still choose between the two programs.
You can qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you have served on active duty for at least 90 days following September 11, 2001. The government may waive the length of this service requirement if you received an honorable discharge because of a service-related disability. For more information, and to apply, visit the VA website or your regional VA office.
Through this program, the federal government covers up to 36 months of tuition at an accredited educational or training institution. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays up to the equivalent of the tuition at the most expensive public university in your home state. If you attend a private or out-of-state school, the Post-9/11 GI Bill does not cover the full cost of your tuition. However, through the Yellow Ribbon Program, some schools provide funding to military students to offset this difference. The school selects an additional amount of money to provide to an individual student, and the VA matches this amount.
In addition to the primary tuition benefit, the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a monthly housing allowance. The rate of this allowance depends on where you live and your enrollment status. The program also provides an educational supplies stipend of $1,000 per year and a tutoring stipend of $100 per month. You must use these benefits within 15 years of your final day of active-duty service.
If you meet certain service requirements, you may also qualify to transfer your benefits to a spouse or dependent. Typically, you must elect to do so while still serving on active duty.
The Montgomery GI Bill
While the Montgomery GI Bill provides less overall financial aid to current and former military service members, it includes several benefits that the Post-9/11 GI Bill does not. For example, many reservists qualify under the Montgomery GI Bill but not the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, the government gives money directly to students, allowing them more flexibility in how they decide to use their educational benefit.
To qualify, you must meet certain service requirements, though you do not necessarily need to serve on active duty. You must also have a high school diploma or GED, and you must enroll in this program during your time in the military. To receive aid, you must contribute at least $100 per month for 12 months or make a lump sum payment of $1,200.
Like the Post-9/11 GI BIll, the Montgomery GI Bill offers 36 months of educational benefits. The monthly allotment varies based on your individual circumstances, but it does not exceed $2,000 per month. You can use this money for tuition at a military-friendly college, a training program, or an apprenticeship. You can transfer these benefits to a dependent.
Unlike the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill does not provide an additional stipend for housing or educational expenses. You must pay for the entirety of your education from the monthly allotment.
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
SOC strive to make it as easy as possible for veterans, military personnel, and their families to earn a postsecondary degree. The SOC network, overseen by the Department of Defense, consists of approximately 1,900 military-friendly colleges and universities across the country.
SOC schools commit to accepting transfer credits from other members of the network. They also waive residency requirements for members of the military. Because military families often relocate regularly, SOC schools help service members and their dependents complete their education at a variety of different colleges.
Member schools often voluntarily offer other benefits to military students. They may waive application fees or provide discounted tuition rates, as well as provide specialized counseling services to veterans. Military-friendly online colleges give active-duty personnel the opportunity to complete a program on their own schedule and from any location.
What Does It Mean for a School to Be Military Friendly?
Broadly speaking, military-friendly colleges create welcoming and supportive learning environments for veterans, military personnel, and their families. Although no official designation exists, you can easily spot schools that offer programs and benefits in recognition of your service to your country. When researching where to earn your online medical billing and coding degree, look for a school that offers one or more of the benefits on the list below.
- Tuition Discounts for Military: Tuition discounts represent one of the most visible ways that schools can reward and recruit veterans and service members. Because individual schools choose to provide this benefit of their own accord, the rates of these discounts vary a great deal. Rather than providing a single tuition discount, some schools participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Yellow Ribbon schools provide additional funding on a case-by-case basis.
- Credit Opportunities: At certain schools, you may qualify to receive course credit for your military service. Some institutions may also offer you the opportunity to test out of subjects in which you can demonstrate your expertise. All schools participating in the SOC network pledge to accept transfer credits from other member institutions.
- Financial Aid: Many colleges and universities use scholarships or other financial benefits to attract veterans and their families. Schools typically grant these awards based on academic or professional achievements, but they can also do so in recognition of a student’s potential. You must apply for these awards through a process separate from your application for government educational benefits.
- On-Campus Benefits: Veterans pursuing an online medical billing and coding degree benefit from more than just financial aid. A military-friendly college may also provide subsidized housing, healthcare services for individuals with physical or psychological issue resulting from their service, and specialized career counseling. These schools may also host student events or student organizations specifically for veterans and service members.
- Academic Programs: Students who want to continue their career in the armed forces may seek a military-friendly college where they can major in a subject like military history, military science, or military studies. Students interested in a medical billing and coding degree may minor in one of these subjects.
- Flexibility: If you plan to balance your studies with professional or personal obligations, you should consider the flexibility of your potential program. Many military-friendly online colleges allow you to watch lectures and complete coursework whenever and wherever you want. Night and weekend courses may help you schedule your learning around other responsibilities.