So, it is free: Polite and meaningful answer


Like any other parents, we are very proud, happy and humble that our DS decided to be part of the noble cause of serving the country and ready to continue the family legacy to service.

Now that neighbors, friends and others getting to know of his appointment to West Point, I was wondering what would be a polite and meaningful answer to a question "so... it's free education?" without offending anyone asking this. I'm sure, they don't have bad intention, but, the way it comes out dampens all the commitment factor to reach to this point and beyond 4 years at the academy.

Congratulations to all the cadets/midshipman c/o 2023 and well wishes for the continued success.


I wouldn't (and haven't) taken it for anything more than it is. I just reply, "its tuition free in exchange for mandatory military service upon graduation". I then explain what the commitment length is based on career/training requirements and leave it at that.


Just gathering dust in the nursery...
5-Year Member
Where no offense is meant, there is no need to search for a “polite” answer or to straighten the person out with a humblebrag. Take @HuskyPilot’s approach; directly answer the question asked and move on.


A neighbor just asked me the other day, "Are you paying anything for his tuition?" I said, "No, but YOU are! Thank you very much!" He knows my sense of humor and got the joke.

One thing that some people forget, who only think of the "free education" aspect, is that a majority of these SA students would get huge merit scholarships at many civilian schools, if not full rides. Yet they chose this path. They are a special breed.


I was wondering what would be a polite and meaningful answer to a question "so... it's free education?"
I found it amazing that many people do not understand the vast difference between an academy and "typical" college education. I've often indicated that although we are not needing to make cash payments to the academy, my son has paid for this education by committing a minimum of five additional years to the Air Force.
i used to tease dh about his 'free' education bc I was ROTC (always good natured and in jest; I've always been jealous actually); his response was always "yeah, shoved up my a$$ one nickel at a time" -- he absolutely loved his SA time, but it's apparently a common reply among that crowd. LOL!


5-Year Member
I understand the arguments for "not free' due to the commitment piece but would resist the urge to go to far with that. I think the answer goes hand in hand with what a senior leader I worked for says in response to "Thanks for your service" "It is a privilege to serve". The bottom line is we all volunteer for this and the education benefit is a significant contribution by the taxpayer along with a good salary and benefits plan upon commissioning. The American people more than adequately compensate us to do what we sign up to do (and most of us enjoy a lot). That isn't the case even with some of our closest allies and partners. So in response to is it free than I would say "Yes and then you are privileged to serve 4/5 or 8 years upon graduation leading Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen/Marines/Coast Guardsmen".