Tuition Assistance (TA) programs such as USMC TA enable people on active duty to get a degree. With such programs, people can get a decent education even without utilizing their GI Bill benefits. Different branches provide this assistance program and give active-duty members to receive up to 100% tuition amount.
These branches are Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast, and National Guard, Reserve or Marine Corps. Hence, almost any active duty member can get access to the Tuition Assistance program.
This guide will mostly focus on U.S Marine Corps Tuition Assistance (USMC TA) and other programs that have more or less the same conditions. Besides, we will present other solutions for Marine Corps members.
What to Know about Tuition Assistance Programs?
Whether it is a USMC TA or another assistance program, there are some general points to consider. First, the benefit- tuition assistance amount- is almost the same in all branches. If an individual receives this benefit, he/she does not need to repay. It means Tuition Assistance is more like a grant than a loan.
Keep in mind that you are free of repayment as long as you satisfy the requirements. Additionally, the benefit amount of individual cases depends on the Command. In other words, the Command of the active-duty members decides on the assistance amount.
Hence, it should not be surprising that the Command should approve the educational intentions of the applicant. When applicants want to take online education during deployment, they should again get approval from the Command.
While the benefit amount is the same, the eligibility criteria vary across the branches. Luckily, in this guide, we will present you with different conditions for qualification.
Some borrowers think that USMC TA or other programs are the same as their GI Bills. Sure, it is possible to combine these benefits or supplement the tuition with GI Bill. However, they are two different programs, and they do not need to be supplemented.
Advantages of Tuition Assistance Programs including USMC TA
TA programs are one of the best opportunities for active-duty members. Unfortunately, many people ignore this opportunity or procrastinate. When they want to apply, it turns out that they are no longer eligible. Hence, act on time and enjoy multiple benefits of TA programs.
First, getting a decent education brings new leadership or psychology skills and empowers members to get emotionally stronger or be prepared for upcoming challenges. Besides, if you want to get promoted, your educational background can be important.
Usually, to enlist as an officer, you will need a degree. Most people wait until they complete the service. Later they utilize GI Bill benefits, and when they get a degree, they re-enlist as an officer. This strategy also works. However, if an active duty member can get a degree and serve simultaneously, it is a much faster way of being an officer.
Additionally, keep in mind that a degree helps to transfer a military job into a civil one. Usually, military qualifications are not given much importance in the civil world. Some state or branch programs can pay for the transfer to professions like nursing, but it is not guaranteed. Getting a degree will make this process much easier.
Having a degree will also be a good credential for the military members if they later want to get employment or continue their education. TA program officials can assist the members in using their degrees in resumes, applying for jobs even before the service term expires, or find future education opportunities.
U.S Marine Corps Tuition Assistance (USMC TA)
U.S Marine Corps Tuition Assistance is also known as the Marine Corps Lifelong Learning Program. As mentioned before, tuition assistance is available across different branches, and they provide almost the same benefits. However, USMC TA has some varying eligibility conditions, which can be slightly stricter for applicants.
People who want to utilize this opportunity will mostly be eligible for GI Bill and other veteran programs. Keep in mind that USMC TA is different and separate from other programs. However, one can decide to use this program as a supplement to other options.
The best side of this federal assistance is that one does not need to worry about repayment unless he/she meets requirements. In other words, tuition assistance is not a federal loan.
USMC TA is for Marine Corps officers with two years until the service term expires (ETS). If you are on active duty, you can utilize this program minimum of 60 days before the expiration date. Reserves can also participate in this tuition assistance opportunity. However, they should be Active Reserves, not Inactive ones, or Veterans. Active Reserves will qualify for the program, and their annual limit – cap- will be $4500.
We mentioned that many tuition assistance programs share the same qualities. One of these qualities was that the Chain of Command should approve the eligibility, assistance, and online classes if in deployment. Likewise, if you want to apply for USMC TA, your Command should give permission.
What does the Marine Corps TA Cover?
Due to its coverage, USMC TA is one of the most preferred options for military members. Usually, its rates remain the same, but one should also follow the updates about the Department of Defense’s budget and costs. It is advisable to contact the Education Service Officer or related support personnel to get guidance about the rates.
Opposed to other branches that provide TA programs, the Marine Corps covers fees that are part of tuition. Keep in mind that such fees should be shown in the education plan. Only in this way, the USMC TA will pay for the fees. Unfortunately, this tuition assistance program does not include books, supplies, equipment, accommodation, online learning charges, etc. Besides, if you want to study non-credit courses or workforce development programs, USMC TA will not work for you.
Currently, U.S Marine Corps Tuition Assistance can cover up to 100% of tuition fees, or applicants can receive a maximum of $4500 per year for getting a degree. In more details, the benefit is up to:
- $250 per semester hour(undergraduate)
- $166 per quarter hour
- $16.67 per clock hour
- $350 per semester hour(graduate)
When is Repayment Necessary?
Applicants who receive tuition assistance programs should study hard; otherwise, they can lose their privileges and be required to repay the assisted amount. This criterion is as follows:
- Undergraduate students should get a “D” or higher and “P” for passing
- Graduate students should get “C” or higher, and “P” for passing
If you fail the course, get unresolved incompletes, or withdraw voluntarily, you will be obliged to reimburse the assistance benefit. If an active duty member withdraws because of special reasons, such as an emergency, duty requirement, or medical condition, the reimbursement condition can be canceled.
However, this individual should apply for a waiver request with the Command’s agreement and provide supporting documents and an explanation of the reasons why he/she was obliged to withdraw. Later, the Education Service Officer will decide if the individual is still required to reimburse the assistance amount or not.
Keep in mind that government reimbursement will not be canceled if the undergraduate grade is “F” or the graduate grade is “D.” Hence, if approved for USMC TA, one should take responsibility and study properly.
Funding Details based on Study Program
USMC TA will help applicants get an education to receive a diploma, degree, or alternative credential. The applicants should attempt to study at a higher level than their current educational stage. The academic levels are in the following order:
- High School
- Vocational Technical
- Masters or First Professional
- Doctoral or Advanced Professional
If a service member wants to get an education at the same level, the USMC TA will not cover it. Besides, it should not be surprising that you can take advantage of one study program at a time. Applicants will also be required to cover the additional costs, like insurance, accommodation, equipment, books, etc., from their own pockets.
For High School and Vocational-Technical education types, the costs can be fully covered if they are up to the maximum level for the fiscal year, determined by Manpower & Reserve Affairs. Unfortunately, one cannot take advantage of Marine Corps Tuition Assistance for preparatory courses.
Meanwhile, developmental courses can be covered by USMC TA but with a condition: the institute should grant credits for the course taken. In this case, one should not worry about the program completed. The main element is the credit, even if it is not a part of the program completion plan.
If you want to get an undergraduate education, there are specific rules for it, too. First, the undergraduate level includes associates and baccalaureate education types, as mentioned in the above hierarchy. Service members can benefit from Marine Corps TA for 100% coverage of tuition fees.
However, this amount should not be higher than $250 per semester hour. Applicants who receive their bachelor’s degrees during a fiscal year will be eligible for graduate education with TA funds. In other words, funds that are already distributed during the year should be a part of the graduate-level funding cap.
Service members wishing to get a master’s or doctoral degree, as well as First and Advanced Professionals, can apply to graduate education benefits of USMC TA. In this case, they can even get 100% coverage for tuition fees. However, the cost per semester hour should not be higher than $350. As mentioned before, service members should choose only one of the same level of education types. It means they should decide between a master’s degree or a first professional.
Additionally, they cannot use this benefit both for a Doctoral degree and an Advanced Professional level. They have to choose one between the same levels.
Eligibility Details of USMC TA
As mentioned before, both active duty service members and active reserves can participate in USMC TA. one of the pre-elimination conditions is that the applicant should have at least a 2.0 Grade Point Average from their not funded education. They can become eligible once they pass this threshold. Additionally, people in need of tuition assistance programs should first finalize orientation class.
If you apply for the first time and have 99 GT (General Technical) or less, you will be required to get at least 10.2 scores from Taste of Adult Basic Education (TABE). It is possible that service members will not reach this score. In this case, they should complete the MASP.
Additionally, if a service member does not have access to MASP, TABE, or his/her score is less than the required level, the Education Service Officer can approve one course till he/she finalizes 12-hour credit per semester.
When choosing a school, one should ensure that the institution is properly authorized, accredited, and recognized by the Education Department.
What Are Other Options Available to Military Service Members?
The government aims to deliver benefits to people who serve the country. Military service members are not excluded. There exist specific advantages provided by the Education or Defense Department for such people. In this section, we will check which student loan benefits can be accessible for you. If you are not sure about your options, you can contact Student Loans Resolved to get further information and guidance to choose the most suitable programs.
SCRA Interest Cap
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act(SCRA) Interest Cap allows military service members to repay their student loans with ease during their active duty period. During the service, there will be a 6% interest rate cap enforced on student loans. Keep in mind that this cap is only applicable to loans service members received before their duty started.
One of the best sides of this benefit is that it covers federal loans and private loans. It is already known that many federal student loan assistance programs do not cover the private debt. However, luckily, the SCRA Interest Cap can be utilized by private borrowers, too. The eligibility criteria for this interest rate cap require that you get the federal loan on or after August 14, 2008, which should be the date on or before the duty started.
Borrowers who want to take advantage of the interest rate cap should be careful after loan consolidation. If you decide to consolidate the federal loans during the active duty, the loans can become ineligible for this benefit.
Utilizing this program is extremely simple for service members. The loan servicer is required to check the military database regularly. In this way, they can identify the borrowers on active duty and apply the interest rate cap for their student loans. Alternatively, the borrower can also initiate this process by supplying necessary order copies. The only problem is that sometimes the orders show different start dates for the active-duty than the one mentioned in the database. In this case, the borrower can submit the order copy to enjoy the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s benefits.
If you have already undertaken the student debt and do not need USMC TA to study further, this option can be suitable for you to ease the repayment period. Some borrowers on active duty can be eligible for no-interest payment for a maximum of 60 months. However, such service members should be serving in hostile areas. Again, like interest rate cap, this benefit applies to federal loans – only the ones taken on or after October 2008. Differently, some consolidated loans can also be eligible for such benefits.
Borrowers in need of a no-interest period should prove that they are eligible for the benefit. It includes the documentation showing that they really serve in hostile areas. Such a document can be an official statement, military order, or leave and earning statement. All these documents should indicate the hostile area service. Otherwise, they will be useless.
Student loan deferment is a temporary suspension of debt collection due to specific events. As military members can face such situations frequently, the deferment is also applicable for service members. If eligible, your loan repayment will cease for some period. Such periods can be when a service member is on active duty in war, military operation, or a national emergency. In general, if you serve in a different station than your duty belongs to, you can qualify for deferment. However, keep in mind that training or service school attendance does not make the loan eligible. Speaking of loans, they can be federal or private with some conditions.
Student Loan Borrowers in need of deferment period should get some documents, like a request form for deferment. It is also possible to combine this request form with a written statement from Command or order copy. If a borrower cannot submit these documents, he/she should request the deferment verbally. It is applicable for the first 12 months of the government loan.
Additionally, service members can postpone the payment after they finish their military service term expires, and they decide to go back to school. The same loan types are eligible for such deferment. However, the deferment will be accessible only after the service members return from war, operation, or emergencies. Again, a deferment request form will be necessary. Alternatively, a written statement from Command, together with a request, and a copy of orders can be submitted.
If active duty members serve in the war, military operation, or emergency in the country, they will be eligible for another benefit than deferment, the HEROES Act. It is understandable that during the active duty in the mentioned cases, it can be difficult to meet the repayment plans‘ conditions. For example, income-based repayment programs require documentation to update information about the number of family members or income.
When serving in the military, it can be hard to deal with these issues. Hence, the HEROES Act allows federal loan borrowers not to submit the documents and keep the loan’s conditions. Borrowers should submit military orders to take advantage of this benefit. Alternatively, the loan servicer is responsible for applying for the benefit if they know that the borrower qualifies.
USMC TA is only a useful option if a service member wants to get an education during active duty. However, many borrowers start serving in the military after they take loans. Hence, the USMC TA does not deliver any value for such military members. In this case, applying a suitable repayment program can be more beneficial.
Luckily, military service members can utilize income-driven repayment plans for their loans. These repayment plans depend on the actual income level, so it is even possible to get no payment required for a month. Depending on the program, the payback period, eligible loan types, and interest rate changes.
However, unfortunately, this option might not be accessible to private loan borrowers. Here are some more details about the income-driven repayment plans, but it is advisable to check the official website or contact Student Loans Resolved to get familiar with full information.
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan
This program requires only 10% of the discretionary income, divided by 12. Sometimes, the amount is also adjusted to the family size and the borrowed amount. Under the Pay as You Earn repayment program, it takes 20 years to pay out the debt. If a military service member has a direct loan taken on or after October 2011, he/she can apply to this program.
Revised Pay as You Earn Plan
Another income-driven repayment plan available to active-duty members is Revised Pay as You Earn. Different from Pay as You Earn, this program can take up to 25 years to repay. The payback period is 20 years for undergraduate students, while for graduates, it is 25 years.
Such a plan allows borrowers to repay the debt differently for new and non-new borrowers. New borrowers are the ones who took the debt on or after Jul 2014. At the time of the loan disbursement, they should not have any other similar outstanding balance. In this case, the military service members will be required to pay 10% of their discretionary income, divided by 12. Their repayment period will be 20 years.
On the other hand, non-new members will pay 15% of the discretionary income, divided by 12, for 25 years. This plan can be suitable for borrowers who have direct or FFEL debt.
Income-contingent repayment requires a higher monthly payment- 20% of the discretionary income, divided by 12 or fixed amount over 12 years. Meanwhile, it takes around 25 years to repay the debt fully.
Service members can also be eligible for a discharge program called Total and Permanent Disability Discharge. In this case, they need to get documentation from the Veteran Affair or use other related documents to prove their conditions to qualify for debt elimination. It can apply to federal and some private loans. You can get more information about Total and Permanent Disability Discharge in our blog.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
There is a reason why we kept this option to the very end because it deserves special attention if the USMC TA is not the program you need. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is an excellent program granting full debt cancellation when the borrower makes 120 qualifying payments. Active duty members and veterans meeting eligibility criteria can utilize this benefit for their federal student loans. This program is frequently preferred because of several reasons.
Compared to repayment plans, it generates quicker results- making eligible payments for 10 years will make you eligible for debt relief. Besides, the payments do not need to be consecutive. It means there can be periods of non-qualifying payments, and still, you will not lose your eligible payment credits. Besides, any debt forgiven with Public Service Loan Forgiveness will not be subjected to tax. In other words, borrowers do not need to pay additional income taxes for the forgiven debt.
However, one feature of this forgiveness program that makes it less-desirable is its complex eligibility criteria. There exist different conditions for almost every side of the loan and the borrower’s characteristics, including loan, employment, employer type, or payment plan the debtor utilizes. Yet, once all conditions are met, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness becomes a fantastic option.
More details of Eligibility Criteria for USMC TA
Active service members or veterans need to have direct loans to qualify for this program. Otherwise, they can consolidate their federal loans. Direct consolidation loans will make the debtor eligible. However, borrowers should be careful. While consolidation qualifies them to the PSLF, they will lose their qualifications for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. As mentioned above, this act allows active-duty members to get a cap on their interest rates -a maximum of 6%.
When it comes to qualifying payments, the borrower should utilize income-driven repayment plans to repay their debts. You can get familiar with the income-driven repayment plans, including PAYE, REPAYE, Income-contingent, and Income-based programs. The payments should be made on time and should cover the full due amount. Again, the 120 payments do not need to be consecutive.
There are conditions for employer and employment type, too. Luckily, serving as a military member under the Department of Defense will make the borrower eligible. Yet, keep in mind that you will need someone in the Chain of Command to fill and sign your application documents. Even if the service member completes the duty period, he/she can benefit from this forgiveness program if he works in public service.
What to Expect in 2021 for PSLF?
We explained the current conditions for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness in this guide. However, the conditions can change once the president-elect Joe Biden’s proposed changes are approved by Congress. Joe Biden’s student loan plan aims to simplify the PSLF process. Hence, the plan suggests $10,000 direct forgiveness per year of service, up to 5 years. IT means, instead of making payments for 10 years, and waiting for debt cancellation at the end of the period, the borrowers can get partial debt relief for every year of service. Besides, there are proposed changes like automatic enrollment to income-driven plans, etc. Yet, all these changes are proposed, and they will not be enforced until Congress approves them.
I have a Private Loan. Can I be Eligible?
Unfortunately, Public Service Loan Forgiveness is not available to most private loan borrowers. It can be more useful to consider other options mentioned above. For instance, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act can provide an interest rate cap during the active duty for private loans. Additionally, deferment due to military activity can be offered by some private lenders. It is advisable to contact the lender to check if it provides some conveniences or forgiveness options for military service members.
The government wants to return to people who serve the country in the military. Hence, there exist different educational benefits for such service members. We discussed tuition assistance programs in this guide, especially the one for U.S Marine Corps Tuition Assistance (USMC TA). This program allows active-duty members or active reserves to get up to $4,500 for their future education plans. While the benefit covers tuition and related fees, it does not meet the costs of equipment, books, accommodation, insurance, etc. Yet, if you are looking for a tuition assistance opportunity to get a degree, USMC TA is a great option.
Some service members already got their degrees, and their problems are related to debt repayment. We also presented several options, such as no-interest, SCRA interest cap, deferment, repayment plans, and forgiveness programs for these borrowers. However, it is possible that if you take advantage of one opportunity, you will lose your eligibility for other options. Hence, borrowers should choose the one that is most suitable and brings the highest benefits.
Therefore, you need to do thorough research about each option and analyze its pros and cons. Alternatively, you can contact Student Loans Resolved for assistance. Whether you need help for USMC TA or other programs, our experts can guide you through the whole process. With the help of SLR debt specialists, service members will make the best decisions to achieve a debt-free life.