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USM and Mississippi National Guard Announce Tuition-Free Program

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 05:08pm | By: Van Arnold

USM President Rodney D. 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 Golden Eagle Free Tuition Program.

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 standards. These 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 

About the Mississippi National Guard

The Mississippi National Guard (MSNG) is commanded by the Adjutant General of Mississippi, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Mississippi Army National Guard (MSARNG) and the Mississippi Air National Guard (MSANG). The MSNG consists of approximately 12,400 Soldiers and Airmen that are “Always Ready, Always There” for Mississippi and the Nation. For more information about the Mississippi National Guard visit our website at

About The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is a comprehensive public research institution delivering transformative programs on campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, at teaching and research sites in central and southern Mississippi, as well as online. Founded in 1910, USM is one of only 130 universities in the nation to earn the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” designation, and its robust research enterprise includes experts in ocean science and engineering, polymer science and engineering, and sport venue safety and security, among others. USM is also one of only 40 institutions in the nation accredited in theatre, art and design, dance and music. As an economic driver, USM generates an annual economic impact of more than $600 million across the state. USM welcomes a diverse student body of approximately 15,000, representing 71 countries, all 50 states, and every county in Mississippi. USM students have collected four Truman Scholarships and 36 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, while also leading Mississippi with 24 Goldwater Scholarships, an honor that recognizes the next generation of great research scientists. Home to the Golden Eagles, USM competes in 17 Division I sports sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). For more information, visit