Military-Friendly Colleges

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there are more than 2 million members of the armed forces in active duty or reserve forces in the U.S. There is also a veteran population of nearly 20 million. The federal government helps these military personnel and their families afford higher education, including online criminal justice degree programs, through financial aid programs like the Montgomery GI Bill® and the Post-9/11 GI Bill®.

There are more than 2 million members of the armed forces in active duty or reserve forces in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

The Montgomery GI Bill offers education benefits to nearly 1 million active duty military and veterans. The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays recipients’ public school tuition in full and reducing private school tuition costs for those who served in active duty after Sept. 10, 2011. There is also the Service Members Opportunity Colleges (SOC) program, which facilitates credit transfers and eases residency requirements to help military personnel and their families complete their degrees. Aside from federally sponsored programs, many colleges and private foundations provide scholarships for veterans and their families. Military-friendly colleges usually offer other benefits as well, such as counseling programs and prior learning credits for military experience.

The Importance of Military Status

Military status can impact eligibility for GI Bill education benefits, other forms of federal aid, and privately funded grants. Certain student aid programs may be restricted to active-duty service members or reservists, while others cater to veterans and their families. Some programs only offer to dependents of veterans who became disabled or died in combat.

Military Status and Benefits

Active-duty MilitaryActive-duty service members work full-time in the military, sometimes live on a military base, and can be deployed overseas at any time. The Armed Forces Tuition Assistance (TA) program, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB-AD) and the SOC program are all specifically designed for active-duty personnel.
Inactive-duty MilitaryInactive duty generally applies to those on the inactive status list of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces, or those assigned to the Inactive National Guard. Reservists may be eligible for VA benefits, depending on how long they have served and how long they held active duty status. Educational benefits for reservists include the Montgomery Bill (MGIB-SR) and the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP).
Discharged (Multiple Types)Military discharge releases service members from the obligation to continue serving in the armed forces, and a discharge can be either voluntary or involuntary. Those who have been honorably discharged from active service may be eligible for VA benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Retired/veteranMilitary veteran status is awarded to those who have spent at least 20 years in the military, in either active service or in qualifying reserve service. Retired veterans are eligible for a wide range of VA benefits, including education benefits from the GI Bill, plus veteran-specific federal, state, and privately funded scholarships. Several student aid programs are available for dependents of retired military personnel, as well.

Government Benefits for Military Students

The Post-9/11 GI Bill®

This VA-administered program provides financial assistance for college courses and on-the-job-training. It’s open to service members with 90 days of active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001, or who are still on active duty. The program also caters to veterans who have been honorably discharged or discharged with a service-related disability after 30 days of active duty.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is open to service members with 90 days of active-duty service since Sept. 10, 2001, or who are still on active duty.

There are two types of benefit programs available under the Post-9/11 Bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program offsets private schools’ high tuition costs, plus graduate programs not covered under the GI Bill and out-of-state tuition expenses. The program is restricted to veterans — active-duty personnel and their spouses may not apply. Participating schools agree to contribute additional educational funds to supplement their veteran students’ G.I. tuition benefits. Each institution determines how much tuition it will contribute, and then the VA matches that amount and makes payments directly to the school.

The Post-9/11 Bill’s second program is Transfer of Entitlement, which allows military personnel to give some or all of their education benefits to their spouses or dependents who are enrolled in college. Any service member can transfer their benefits if they have completed six years of service and agree to serve four more years, or if they have completed at least 10 years of active-duty or selected reserve duty service. The U.S. Department of Defense must approve requests to transfer, after which the beneficiaries must apply for transfers at the VA.

The Montgomery GI Bill®

The Montgomery GI Bill offers two programs, one for those on active duty and the other for reservists. The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) allows active duty service members to contribute $100 per month for one year in exchange for a monthly educational benefit once they have completed two years of service. This stipend increases for those with three years of active duty. Active-duty personnel can also participate in the Buy Up Program by paying an additional $600, which qualifies them to receive a repayment rate of eight dollars to one, with a maximum of $5,400 in benefits. The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) caters to reservists, and requires six years of service. This program provides up to $860 per month for full-time studies, for a maximum of three years. The benefits for both programs expire after 10 years, if unused, and veterans using these benefits at public colleges and universities pay in-state tuition, regardless of their state of residency.

Service Member Opportunity Colleges

The Service Member Opportunity Colleges (SOS) program partners with Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) to improve educational opportunities for service members, primarily by making it easier to transfer credits and reducing residency requirements. The SOC program focuses on military personnel and their families who must move frequently, which makes it difficult to complete a college degree in one place without interruption. SOC member schools accept each other’s credits in transfer, and usually offer online programs. This makes SOC schools ideal for military personnel.

What Does It Mean for a School to Be Military-Friendly?

Military-friendly colleges offer support services for active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their spouses and dependents. As you select an online criminal justice degree, learn which resources are available specifically for those with military status: financial assistance, credit transfer, and on-campus counseling are a few potential examples.

  • Tuition Discounts For Military

    All military members are eligible for tuition assistance at public schools, covering up to 100% of the total expense. Military personnel can also apply for the MGIB Top-Up Program, which supplements private school tuition not covered by the GI Bill. In addition, schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon program offer special assistance to cover out-of-state and private school tuition. Military-friendly colleges often sponsor independently funded grants to help defray tuition and other costs.

  • Credit Opportunities

    Military-family colleges offer prior learning assessments, awarding college credit for military service. The American Council on Education works with the Department of Defense to review the joint services transcript, which connects occupational experience and military service training with corresponding college credit recommendations. Each school decides which credits are transferable to their programs.

  • Financial Aid

    The Student Aid site maintained by the U.S. Department of Education provides a list of financial aid opportunities for military service members and their families. Active-duty service members and their dependents can use GI Bill benefits to attend an out-of-state public college while paying in-state tuition. Funds are also available for dependents of veterans who have been disabled due to a service-related injury, or who died while on active duty.

  • On-campus Benefits

    As you search for the criminal justice degree that suits your needs, consider which on-campus resources are available to active-duty military, veterans, and their families. The VA collaborates with some colleges to provide employment counseling for veterans and spouses transitioning to the civilian workforce. The Post-9/11 Bill has a provision for a monthly housing allowance, and several institutions offer specialized counseling, peer mentoring, and other services for military personnel and their families.

  • Academic Programs

    Several military-friendly colleges offer degrees in military studies that focus on areas like diplomacy, intelligence, and leadership. These programs may lead to military career advancement, and they also appeal to veterans moving into civilian positions in government, teaching, or related fields. Other popular fields of study for service members, veterans, and their families include criminal justice, business administration, computer science, and cyber security.

  • Flexibility

    Active-duty personnel who attend college must balance the demands of their military commitments with their studies. Veterans and their families pursuing higher education must navigate the challenges of their personal and professional responsibilities, plus course requirements. These university students are particularly well-served by military-friendly online colleges. An online criminal justice degree offers flexible schedules, accelerated formats, and round-the-clock access to classes and student resources.

* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at