Under the Tuition Assistance Top-Up program, each service is authorized to pay an additional portion of the cost of postsecondary courses that exceed the cost allowed under the Tuition Assistance program.

Each branch of the armed forces sets its own eligibility requirements and tuition benefits for the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program, designed to provide active duty servicemembers with tuition and fees for higher education. The maximum benefit varies by service; while the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines offer a maximum of $4,500 annually, the Navy provides $250 per credit hour not to exceed 16 hours per year, or $4,000. Tuition assistance is provided by each branch, with payments sent directly to the member’s institution of higher education. It is not a loan; it is an earned benefit offered to active duty members. In fiscal year 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, the Department of Defense spent $517 million through this program for about 337,000 servicemembers.