Education

Will the military pay off your student loans?

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Financial advisor Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents just started the debt movement to help people reach financial independence. Over the next four months, bloggers and readers will commit to paying off a collective [Dr. Evil voice] 10 million dollars(!) in personal debt.

Jeff’s a veteran, so when he starts a financial movement then I try to blog about the military aspect of the subject. I’ve also been sitting on a draft post about student loans hitting a balance of a trillion dollars, so let’s start there. When you’re facing a mountain of student debt and you don’t even have a job lined up after graduation, the military can seem like a pretty attractive option.

So should you join the military to pay off your student loans? Maybe.

This is a confusing subject– let me clarify the programs that I’m going to discuss. This post is for people who are going to graduate from college with student debt. You’re already at college, you’re looking for debt solutions, and the military seems like a pretty attractive option– especially if they’ll pay off your student loans.

Before you start college

If you just started college (or if you’re still in high school) then there are plenty of other ways to get a college degree from the military without student debt. One way is attending a service academy, although that’s not necessarily the best option. (My spouse and I are service academy alumni, but you may be able to do better.) In every state the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps runs a great program on high school and college campuses that offers students up to four years of tuition & fees along with a monthly stipend, and ROTC’s first year is totally free of obligation. If you’re even mildly curious about military service (and avoiding student debt) then this is a great way to try before you buy. If you’re already in college then you may still be able to persuade ROTC to pay for the last year or two of your education– go find your campus unit and talk to their staff.

If you’re “not quite ready for college” but you think you’re ready for the military*, then once you’ve completed recruit training you can start exploring your college options. The military will help pay for your college classes with tuition assistance, although you’ll be doing this on your own time and with a number of restrictions. It may be cheap but you have to be motivated. If you just can’t make it work while you’re on active duty, then the GI Bill will pay for your college degree after the military. This is a great program, too, but why wait until after the military?

Now let’s get back to the main subject: paying off your student loans.

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10 Comments

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  7. Jay

    January 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Nords, great job of research about what’s available!!
    As a side note — I’m beginning to understand how there there can be over 2000 federal subsidy programs for individuals.

    • Doug Nordman

      January 11, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      Thanks, Jay!

  8. Military Money Manual

    January 10, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    There’s also the student loan repayment program: http://www.military.com/Resources/ResourcesContent/0,13964,44245–,00.html

    I’ve never used it personally but I have heard of Army guys getting $20,000/year paid off for an additional 3 year commitment.

    • Doug Nordman

      January 11, 2013 at 3:38 AM

      Looks like a great program– thanks, Spencer!

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