by Van Arnold

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Mississippi National Guard (MSNG) have announced the Golden Eagle Free Tuition Program, a joint initiative that will provide members of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guards the opportunity to graduate, tuition-free, from one of the nation’s leading comprehensive research universities.

“Military service to our country is among the highest forms of patriotism and selflessness, and we take our role as a Military Friendly institution seriously,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “I could not be more proud to partner with the Mississippi National Guard to support the educational goals of the men and women whose service and sacrifice protects our state and our country through the establishment of the Golden Eagle Free Tuition Program.”

Bennett joined Maj. Gen. Janson D. “Durr” Boyles, Adjutant General of Mississippi, in signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday morning, outlining the two entities’ commitment to the program.

“Readiness is our constant goal for the MSNG.  Developing sound leaders is a key component of readiness,” said Boyles. “Investing in the education of our future leaders is achieved through partnering with our universities.”

The program will include Mississippi Air National Guard members who receive MSNG-State Educational Assistance Program (SEAP) and are full-time undergraduate students, or Mississippi Army National Guard members who receive Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) funds. MSNG members must be enrolled as full-time undergraduate students (at least 12 semester hours) and maintain a 2.0 GPA to remain eligible. The MSNG will ensure that the soldier/airman is in good standing with his/her respective unit.

Once a student is approved for SEAP, USM will receive a monetary allocation from MSNG-SEAP for each service member/student proportionate to the amount paid at other state supported colleges and universities or in accordance with Federal standardsThese funds can be used in conjunction with other benefits the student has to ensure a zero-tuition balance.

USM will have the ability to apply any of the remaining monetary allocation of SEAP funds to the population of MSNG SEAP and FTA students. This program excludes distance education fees and distance tuition above 12 credit hours.

The University of Southern Mississippi continues to excel as a resource for veterans, service members and their families. USM has received a No. 15 national ranking by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2019 survey. This marks the third consecutive year in which USM has been ranked nationally in the top 20 of all four-year colleges across the United States. VIQTORY media lists USM at No. 3 nationwide among research institutions in its 2019-20 survey of Military Friendly® Schools.

For more information on USM’s Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families, visit