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Tuition assistance (TA) is a military-sponsored program that reimburses military members for the cost of college classes while on active duty. The program is part of a series of quality-of-life efforts to make military service more attractive to youth and encourage them to remain in the military. This book examines TA and retention behavior for first-term members of the Navy and Marine Corps. The authors examine who uses TA and whether TA users are more prone to reenlist than are those who take no college classes during their first term. The authors found that TA affects reenlistment, but does so negatively, a result at odds with previous studies. Using two analysis models, the authors show TA users to be consistently less likely to remain in the military than nonusers when both groups are eligible for TA for equal periods. The results suggest that those who participate in TA do so with an eye to education or work after they leave the service. First-term members with a strong preference for college may prefer to pursue their education in the civilian world, where they are likely to complete their degrees much faster and with substantial government assistance through the GI Bill.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's National Security Research Division.

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