How does grad school work for USCGA graduates? Does it count as a tour? Does the USCG pay for it, or do graduates pay out of pocket? Or do they use the GI Bill instead? Are USCGA graduates even eligible for any GI Bill benefits? Does the USCG have a say in what you will study, or are you given free reign to choose? Lastly, how does name recognition play into getting into grad school at other top tier institutions? Is it comparable to USNA/USMA/USAFA in the eyes of admissions? Lastly, does anyone have direct experience with grad school from a service academy? Feel free to share!
OP, great questions - I'll try to answer them the best I can.
There are three ways a USCGA graduate attends graduate school - as a Coast Guard tour, as a "side gig" during a tour, or after they leave the Coast Guard. There are also three ways to pay for the grad school - the Coast Guard foots the entire bill (if you're doing grad school as tour), Tuition Assistance (Coast Guard pays up to a certain amount per credit hour), or the GI Bill. Right now, I am working while also attending grad school using the GI Bill. I have several classmates that have completed or enrolled in CG-funded grad school programs, to include law school. The only reason why I am using the GI Bill is my program is typically awarded to O-4s for the Coast Guard tour option and I didn't want to wait longer to go.
So yes, the Coast Guard is eligible for GI Bill benefits - but as a CGA graduate, you must serve your five year commitment first, and then accrue another 36 months of service to get your 100% eligibility. That was not the case for my class and earlier as the original GI Bill legislation forgot to write in USCGA graduates as people who needed to serve their five year commitment first - sometimes there are benefits to being forgotten!
You can choose anything you like, unless you want to do a CG tour - then. you choose from this list: https://www.uscga.edu/graduate-programs/
I can't speak to how comparable the "name brand of CGA" is to institutions but I had no problem with applying to schools and I know of several people attending very good schools, including Ivy League institutions.
Edit: An important caveat I neglected to mention - if you go to grad school or use Tuition Assistance, you also need to pay that money back in additional service time. I think the payback for a Coast Guard grad school tour is roughly another 3-4 years.