Why do people join the military? Some join for a better life or to serve their country. However the results from a RAND study in 2018 showed that 32% of the military members join for the benefits that they can receive.

“In particular, many soldiers sought to gain access to the military’s benefits
These particularly included health care, tuition assistance during service, and the GI Bill (RAND Study, page 28).”

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There are a total of 1.195 million active-duty military and more than 778,000 reserve forces according to September 2021 data from the Department of Defense. Going by these data points, 631,000 member military have joined for the benefits that they can receive. This mostly focuses on the education benefits; the GI bill and tuition assistance. To receive the GI bill, you are required to serve active duty time, or to be on orders. To receive 100% of your GI bill, means 3 years (36 months) of active duty time.

I am writing this to offer an alternative for those who specifically want to join to get education benefits. I am writing about the national guard. The hidden gem of the military.

The National Guard is a special part of the U.S. military that answers to both state governors and the president. Unlike active duty or the reserves, who only respond to federal orders, if a state requires the national guard to be activated for natural disasters or other reasons determined by the governor. The overall requirements for the national guard and reserves is mostly the same; 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks out of the year, will be spent at base doing your military role.

Commonly called a “weekend warrior” this part time service provides most benefits that an active duty member would receive, as well as, a few that are exclusive to the guard only, education benefits being a big one.

The national guard (air national guard) offers exclusive state education benefits. These range from $4,250 a semester up to getting all tuition and fees waived. Most of the states only require that you finish basic training (boot camp) and tech school (AIT), few may require you to complete a year of service, to of been deployed, received a purple heart, etc.

19 states offer additional education benefits, the following list is showing the states and the benefits offered:

Alaska: may receive up to 100% tuition assistance at any school in the University of Alaska system.

Arizona: provides qualifying Post 9/11 veterans with tuition-free education at any public state university or community college.

California: pay for up to 100% of the tuition and fees at the Universities of California, California State Universities, and California Community Colleges.

Colorado: Members of the Colorado National Guard may be eligible for up to 100% state tuition assistance at selected schools. The tuition assistance is capped at $4,250 per semester and is good for 132 semester hours or 8 years total use, whichever comes first.

Delaware: Active members of the Delaware National Guard may qualify for education benefits that may cover post-secondary tuition and fees at accredited public or private schools.

Hawaii: A waiver that covers 100% of community college tuition and 50% of four-year university tuition.

Illinois: Provides the student with 8 semesters or 12 quarters of full-time/part-time undergrad coursework at any state-supported college.

Louisiana: Provides free tuition at all public colleges and universities for resident National Guard members.

Maine: Offers members a 100% tuition waiver to attend all of the schools in the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems, as well as Maine Maritime Academy.

Massachusetts: provides a 100% tuition and fee waiver for active members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard attending a state college, university, or community college. Assistance can continue until the member has reached 130 semester hours.

Montana: Waivers for qualifying students will be applied as last-dollar awards, up to the total annual cost of in-state tuition only.

New Hampshire: Members of the New Hampshire National Guard may take courses tuition-free at state-supported post-secondary institutions. Both in-state or out-of-state New Hampshire residents are eligible for the waiver.

Ohio: Allows Ohio National Guard members with qualifying time-in-service to apply for undergraduate scholarships to Ohio schools on the approved list to get 100% paid tuition. 

Oklahoma: offers qualifying resident guard members a 100% waiver on in-state tuition costs. Up to 18 hours of tuition may be waived each semester. 

Oregon: 100% funding for tuition at no more the state residency rate to eligible Oregon Army and Air National Guard members at Oregon public universities and Oregon community colleges.

Rhode Island: provides a tuition waiver for current National Guard members at state public colleges and universities. Qualifying members can receive up to 5 tuition-free classes per semester, excluding books and fees.

Vermont: Eligible members of the Vermont National Guard who are in good standing can get free tuition at Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont, and Vermont Private Colleges (up to the Northern Vermont University rate).

Washington: Washington State law allows a waiver for qualified guard members up to the full amount of tuition and fees and participating schools. 

Wyoming: offers eligible National Guard members a 100% tuition and mandatory fees waiver while attending Wyoming community colleges or the University of Wyoming. 

Source for list

The requirements to access each states varies, so speaking to a recruiter can help you find if joining the guard is a better path for you. I will also say that some states can allow for you to serve in states that you do not live in, meaning if you go to school across the country, you can join the guard in that state to receive education benefits.

Ultimately this is an incredible hidden gem and I would love to help anyone with questions about these benefits.

You can email me directly: itsjonlynch@gmail.com or message me on instagram.