Since the introduction of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, many colleges are competing to win over active-duty military students and veterans. With over 1.2 million active military personnel and their family members eligible to receive these benefits and over 790,000 students using the benefits each year, higher learning institutions are seeking new ways to attract military-affiliated students. Many higher learning institutions offer military-friendly MBA programs that prepare students to enter the business world after service. Although for-profit institutions are the big players in this arena, there are plenty of public and private nonprofit schools aiming to recruit the nation’s service members.

Over 1.2 million active military personnel and their family members eligible to receive benefits.

Military-friendly schools cater to the unique needs of these students. For example, some programs remove the need for physical textbooks to make college more affordable for active-duty families. Other schools changed their admissions standards to better suit veterans and their families. These universities may also waive certain requirements for veterans and active-duty service members. The federal government is also doing its part to help veterans transition to student life. Programs such as the Leadership Scholar Program in the Marine Corps, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges help service members earn degrees. Finally, nonprofit organizations, like Service to School and the Posse Foundation, help veterans with this transition as well.

The Importance of Military Status

There are many types of financial aid available to help students pay for a military-friendly MBA. However, each of these options has its own requirements. Perhaps the most critical condition is the military status applicants need to be eligible. Programs require learners to be either active duty, inactive duty, discharged, or retired military personnel.

Military Status Description
Active-Duty Military Of all military students, active-duty servicemembers can receive the broadest range of financial assistance. This aid helps offset the difficulties of serving while in school. These students may be eligible for tuition benefits through their branch, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, federal student loans, private scholarships, and scholarships from the schools.
Inactive-Duty Military Students serving in the Reserves or the National Guard as inactive-duty service members may qualify for many of the same education benefits as active-duty service members. Both of the main GI Bills cover inactive-duty military personnel. Furthermore, these students can seek assistance from the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and various scholarships.
Discharged (Multiple Types) Discharges from the military can affect a student’s ability to obtain financial aid from a GI Bill. An honorable discharge may keep a learner eligible for these benefits. However, other types of discharges may result in losing eligibility for GI Bill benefits, but these students are still eligible for some scholarships and federal financial aid.
Retired/Veteran Those who served their time in the military and retired or achieved veteran status may be eligible for unique education benefits. Some states offer specific programs for veterans and their families. Furthermore, veterans can get GI Bill benefits and qualify for private scholarships.

Government Benefits for Military Students

The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) oversees the Post-9/11 GI Bill program, which helps active-duty servicemembers, veterans, and those with honorable discharges earn college degrees. This program began as a way to reward those who served in the military after the 9/11 attacks and to incentivize qualified people to join the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the bill offers benefits to many service members, some people who served may not be eligible. It’s important for potential beneficiaries to check their eligibility status before starting a program.

To receive these GI benefits, active-duty service members must serve at least 90 days in active duty after September 10, 2001. Those with certain types of discharges may also apply, but discharges must be issued after 30 days of service and must be honorable or for service-related disabilities. These benefits are also transferable to dependents of eligible servicemembers.

Students can apply online at the VA website, at a nearby VA office, at the school of choice, or by mailing in a printed application. This program offers 36 months of financial assistance while the student is in school. The bill pays the higher learning institution for tuition and fees. Certain applicants may also receive a monthly housing stipend and yearly payments for books. The program pays for all tuition at public, in-state schools. Students who wish to attend a private school or any institution outside the state of residence may apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program, which covers some costs that the Post-9/11 GI Bill does not.

The Montgomery GI Bill

The VA administers the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) program. This program consists of two parts: one for active duty and another for reservists. The MGIB Active Duty program is available for those with honorable discharges and at least a high school diploma or GED. This program requires students to pay $100 per month for at least six months. The MGIB Selected Reserve program is for people serving as reservists in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, or the Air National Guard. Applicants must make at least a six-year commitment and complete initial active duty for training to qualify for the reservist program.

Both parts of this bill cover 36 months of education. To apply, students must first receive their eligibility notices. Then, learners can verify that their chosen programs are eligible and apply for benefits. These benefits cover tuition at public, private, or vocational schools.

Servicemember Opportunity Colleges

Transferred servicemembers and their families often find it difficult to finish a degree while in service because transfers can take families anywhere and do not always happen on school schedules. To address this issue, the Department of Defense (DoD) partnered with the nonprofit DANTES to create the Servicemember Opportunity Colleges (SOC) program. Now, over 1,900 colleges and universities are signed up with the program.

These institutions relaxed their transfer and admissions guidelines for active duty servicemembers. Many of these schools also offer distance learning programs that allow active duty members to learn from anywhere without worrying about residency requirements. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard participate in this program. Each military branch has its own SOC program with unique eligibility requirements. Interested servicemembers should contact their local Educational Services Office to begin the application process.

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

Learners who want to earn an online MBA for military personnel should look for schools that are military-friendly. This designation is more than a marketing slogan. To be appealing to members of the military, schools should offer certain programs and benefits for active-duty and retired service members. For example, some schools offer discounts on tuition, study flexibility, and even military-specific academic programming. The best online MBA for military members is the one that caters to their unique needs.

  • Tuition Discounts for Military

    Since the GI Bill does not offer tuition payments after 36 months, many colleges and universities make it easier for military members to finish degree programs that take longer by offering lower tuition rates for service members. This creates a military-friendly MBA since many students used their benefits to earn a bachelor’s degree.

  • Credit Opportunities (e.g., Prior Learning, Transfer Credits)

    Many higher learning institutions recognize that the classroom is not the only place where people can learn. As such, many schools offer credits for related work experience, including military service. This helps MBA students earn their degrees faster.

  • Financial Aid (e.g., Scholarships, Benefits for Spouses/Children)

    GI Bills and other federal programs may not cover all of a student’s education and living expenses. That’s why many schools and organizations offer scholarships to make up the difference. Furthermore, some institutions extend their military offers to immediate family members. These benefits can help the whole family get ahead while easing the service member’s financial burden.

  • On-Campus Benefits (e.g., Discounted Housing, Student Organizations, Job Support Post-Graduation, Healthcare/Counseling Services)

    While many students prefer an online MBA for military members, colleges offer unique benefits for on-campus students. Service members and their families may receive help finding jobs after graduation with free services. Furthermore, many universities offer low-cost or free healthcare for veterans and active-duty members.

  • Academic Programs (e.g., Military Studies)

    Students who want to serve in the military for the duration of their careers can still benefit from a college education. Some institutions offer academic programs that facilitate successful military careers. These students can study military issues in-depth and be better prepared for leadership positions.

  • Flexibility (e.g., Adjustable Scheduling Formats)

    The best online MBA for active-duty military options are flexible because the military runs on its own schedule regardless of a student’s class load. Military-friendly colleges offer alternative scheduling and self-paced courses that make it easier for active-duty learners to complete their classes.