The College Loan Repayment Program is an enlistment incentive. Like other enlistment incentives authorized by Congress, each of the services are free to offer the program, or not, as they see fit, in order to meet their established recruiting goals. Under the program, the military will repay a portion of eligible college loans for non-prior service military members. This program is for non-prior service enlisted personnel, only. Officers are not eligible.
Note: For a couple of years, the Army offered CLRP benefits to non-prior service OCS officer candidates as a "test" program. The Army has since decided not to continue the program. Between 2008, and 2011, the Marine Corps is conducting their own "test" program and offers college loan repayment of up to $30,000 for some officer candidates in exchange for extending their service commitment by six months.
Congress has limited the maximum amount of payment by federal law to $65,000. However, within these limits, each of the services have applied their own maximums. At present, the Army and Navy will repay the maximum allowed by law for non-prior service active duty enlistments. The Army will pay up to $20,000 for Reserve enlistments (including the Army National Guard). The Air Force will repay up to $10,000 for non-prior service, active duty enlistments. Additionally, the Navy Reserves will repay up to $10,000 for Navy Reserve enlistments. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force Reserves do not offer the College Loan Repayment Program. However, the Air National Guard offers CLRP of up to $20,000, for designated shortage AFSCs (jobs).
The loan must be entered into before joining the military. The following loans qualify for the College Loan Repayment Program:
- Auxiliary Loan Assistance for Students (ALAS)
- Stafford Student Loan, formerly know as the Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL)
- Parents Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). Must be incurred for the use of the individual contracting for the program (not others such as relatives)
- Consolidated Loan Program. Only covers the member's education expenses
- Federally Insured Student Loans (FISL)
- Perkins Loan, formerly known as the National Direct Student Loan (NDSL)
- Supplemental Loans for Students (SLS)
- For active duty, must have no prior military experience
- In the Air Force and Navy active duty, must enlist for a minimum of four years. For the Army active duty, must enlist for a minimum of three years.
- For the Army and Navy Reserves, and Army and Air National Guard, must enlist for a minimum of six years
- For the Army, must have a high school diploma, and must have an overall score of 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
- For the Army active duty, Army Reserves, Army National Guard, and Air National Guard, must enlist in a specific shortage MOS/AFSC (job) that qualifies for the program (Note: MOS's/AFSC's that qualify can change overnight, depending on the current needs of the service. See your local Recruiter for the latest information about jobs that qualify).
- For the Army Reserves/Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, the maximum amount repayable (up to $20,000) varies according to the MOS/AFSC (job) and unit assigned to.
- Active Duty must give up Montgomery GI Bill Eligibility (but, see info on the next page about this)
- For the Army and Navy Reserves, those with prior military service are eligible.
- The CLRP must be annotated on the enlistment contract.
Payments are made directly to the lender. The first payment is not made until after the member has completed one year of service, assuming that all initial entry training (basic training and job-training) has been completed.
Active Duty. The military repays 33 1/3 percent of the outstanding principle balance of the loan annually, or $1,500, whichever is greater, for each year of service.
Reserves. The Army and Navy Reserves will repay 15 percent of the outstanding principle balance of the loan annually, or $1,500, whichever is greater, for each year of service. The Air National Guard will pay 15 percent, or $5,000 (whichever is greater) annually against the outstanding principle balance.