How to Pay for College as a Military Reservist

How to Pay for College as a Military Reservist
  • Opening Intro -

    The National Defense Authorization Act was designed in part to provide educational benefits to eligible reservists called on for active duty in wartime or times of national emergency.


This Department of Defense-sponsored program is now more commonly referred to as REAP — the Reserve Educational Assistance Program. With this guide you can learn what you need to know to access your REAP benefits.

Eligible Reserve Units

Under REAP, as a reservist you now have access to additional benefits on top of veterans scholarships or other G.I. Bill benefits afforded you. Currently the following reservist units are eligible to participate in REAP.

  • Army Reserve
  • Navy Reserve
  • Air Force Reserve
  • Marine Corps Reserve
  • Coast Guard Reserve
  • Army National Guard
  • Air National Guard

Determining Eligibility for REAP

Only reservists called to active duty (“active service”) as a result of a declaration of national emergency or war are eligible to participate in REAP and receive benefits. According to the G.I. Bill, “active service” is currently defined as “service on active duty or full-time National Guard duty.” Questions about REAP eligibility must be directed to the Department of Defense (DoD) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rather than to the Veterans Administration (VA). While the VA may pay your REAP benefits, eligibility must first be verified by DoD or DHS. There are also additional restrictions that may apply if you are already receiving military-sponsored educational assistance through a different G.I. Bill-related program or scholarship.

REAP Program Benefits Guide

If you are eligible to participate in REAP, you may receive up to 36 months of REAP direct benefits towards full-time education or training assistance. If you are also eligible for another VA-sponsored education program you may receive up to 48 months of benefits total (with a maximum of 36 months total from the REAP program). It is also important to remember that the DoD or DHS must determine whether your selected institution or training program is eligible before you will be able to receive benefits towards the costs of that program or training. The following are educational opportunities covered by REAP.

  • Undergraduate college or university
  • Graduate college or university
  • An accredited independent study or cooperative training program offered through a college or university
  • A certificate or diploma from a cooperative program, business school, technical school or vocational training school
  • An accredited independent study program that is taken as part of obtaining a certificate or diploma at a degree-granting institution
  • A correspondence course
  • An apprenticeship or on-the-job (OTJ) training course offered by an employer or joint apprenticeship committee
  • Overseas programs that are taken as a pathway to obtaining a college degree
  • Flight training that is begun after obtaining a private pilot license and obtaining appropriate medical clearance
  • Certain remedial courses or programs that are taken as a refresher or to overcome an educational deficiency or weakness (must be necessary for your field of study)
  • Coursework that allows you to update your knowledge or skills in your primary vocation

Small Business Training Under REAP

In addition to your education benefits, you may also enroll in approved coursework to assist you with learning to successfully launch and operate a small business. Approved coursework is offered through these organizations.

  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).
    SBDCs are administered by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA).
  • The National Veterans Business Development Corporation.
    More commonly known as “The Veteran’s Corporation,” this organization is actually a federal not-for-profit corporation.

Coursework is typically offered for up to three hours per week. Benefits generally cover tuition and fees only.

Additional REAP Benefits

In addition to your education, training and small business benefits, REAP offers these additional benefits.

  • Reimbursement for test fees.
    Tests may be required for obtaining or renewing a certificate or license. As long as this eligibility requirement is met, you may take multiple tests using your REAP benefits.
  • Participation in workstudy programs.
    Approved work-study programs may place you in a position to assist with REAP program administration, administration VA-related duties or other approved work assistance through the VA.

Depending on your length of service and status, you may also be eligible for additional benefits as determined by the DoD and DHS.

Reservists image by United States Coast Guard ("Reservist" Magazine, 2006 Special Uniform Edition) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Mario Juarez is currently serving as a reservist and attending college using the benefits afforded him through the REAP program.


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Categories: Scholarships