The basic guidelines for tuition assistance are the same for each service, with a yearly cap of $4,500 and a credit cap of $250.

However, the process for using tuition assistance is slightly different with each service.

Marine Corps: Marines must fill out a tuition assistance form that requires a command signature of approval for each class they take, said Bob Stenard, a guidance counselor at Camp Foster.

Marines also must sign a Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Marine Corps agreement, called a SOCMAR, with their college. This agreement states that if the Marine changes duty stations before he completes his degree, his college will accept equivalent classes from another college.

Navy: Sailors also need command approval for tuition assistance and must establish a similar agreement with the college called a SOCNAV. While the Navy pays 100 percent tuition assistance, sailors are limited to 16 semester hours, 24 quarter hours or 240 clock hours a year, according to the Navy College Web site.

This limit can be waived on a case-by-case basis up to the yearly cap of $4,500, Stenard said. His office also assists sailors attached to Marine units.

Army: Soldiers applying for tuition assistance need command approval on a yearly basis and can complete tuition assistance requests online at, according to James Campbell, the education services officer at U.S Army Garrison-Red Cloud in South Korea.

Soldiers can take only eight semester hours at a time unless they get a commander’s waiver, Campbell said.

Air Force: Airmen can apply for tuition assistance through the Air Force’s portal Web site at, said Europonda R. Chestnut, the Kadena Air Base Training and Education Services deputy chief.

But before airmen can take off-duty education, they must first complete Career Development Courses that are specific to their job, Chestnut said.

The Air Force is also the only service that offers a two-year degree through the Community College of the Air Force, she said, explaining the degree would be in the area of an airman’s job.

“For example, a personnel airman would get a human resources associate,” she said.

Most will only need to take about 15 credits of other general education requirements outside the classes offered by the Air Force college, she said.

The associate’s degree can be transferred to a four-year degree at numerous colleges partnered with the Air Force through its Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative program.

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