Your education benefits can help you during your service or after you transition to civilian life.  But once you’ve used them, they’re gone. Choose the school with the best value for your money and a degree that will help you get where you want to be. Then the loans you take out will be worth it.


  • While you’re still in the service, take advantage of the benefits offered.
    • Your service’s Tuition Assistance (TA) program could pay for much or all of the cost of your studies. Learn more from each service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard.
    • DoD’s TA Decide can help you compare schools to see if they’re eligible to accept your benefits and if they meet your educational goals.
    • Talk to your service-level contact for Voluntary Education Programs who can explain benefits eligibility, funding, and programs.
    • Active duty service members also may take advantage of the GI bills; research your options so you can decide whether to use your post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill benefits while you’re serving, during your transition to civilian life, or as a veteran.
  • Research your options for financing your education as you’re planning to leave the service.
  • Understand some student loan basics.
    • You can supplement your GI Bill benefits with federal student loans.
    • There’s a lifetime cap on the total amount of federal student loans you can take. Once you hit the cap, you can still take out private loans – but they usually cost more.
    • You have to repay the loans whether or not you finish school.
    • Federal student loans usually have better terms than private ones.
  • Call the school’s financial aid office or bursar’s office.
    • What is the program’s total cost, including fees for things like equipment or labs?
    • Will you pay by the course, semester, or program? 
  • Before you commit to any student loan, compare:
    • how much you’re borrowing and the interest rate
    • when repayment begins
    • how much time you have to repay the loan


Tools for Personal Financial Managers