Send TRICARE to College with Your Child


Is your student hitting the books at college this fall? TRICARE travels with them. TRICARE coverage of eligible dependents extends to college students.

Children are eligible for TRICARE benefits until age 21. But coverage extends up to age 23 for unmarried children of TRICARE-eligible sponsors, if both:

  • The child is a college student enrolled in a full-time course of study at an approved institution of higher learning
  • The sponsor provides over 50 percent of the child’s financial support

If your student is heading to college, update the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to reflect this status. This will verify and ensure their eligibility for TRICARE.

To extend benefits past your student’s 21st birthday, you’ll need a letter from the school registrar’s office. The letter must state your child is enrolled full-time in an accredited college in pursuit of an associate’s degree or higher. Bring the letter to an ID card-issuing facility. To avoid automatic disenrollment when your child turns 21, you should update DEERS information before his or her 21st birthday. Check with your regional contractor after doing so to make sure there’s no break in coverage.

Health Plan Options

TRICARE health plan options and payment requirements depend on the location of the college your student attends, your sponsor status, and your family’s individual preferences. Use the TRICARE compare plans tool for a side-by-side look at plan features and costs.

Like other beneficiaries eligible to enroll in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select, college students may only enroll in or change their TRICARE coverage during the annual TRICARE Open Season unless they experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). This year, TRICARE Open Season is from Nov. 12 through Dec. 10, 2018. Coverage will start on Jan. 1, 2019. The most common QLE for college students is a change in their residential address (from home to college or vice versa). To qualify, update DEERS with the new address.

Studying in the U.S.

TRICARE Prime and US Family Health Plan (USFHP) enrollees attending college stateside in the same region as their sponsor may keep their TRICARE Prime or USFHP at their sponsor’s address or transfer their enrollment to their school address. These plans must be available in the new location. And you must meet all enrollment criteria.

TRICARE Prime and USFHP enrollees going to college stateside in a different region from their sponsor’s residence may generally keep their TRICARE Prime enrollment in their sponsor’s region. They may also choose split enrollment and transfer their enrollment if TRICARE Prime is available in their new region. Some restrictions may apply. Check with your regional contractor for specifics.

TRICARE Prime Remote (TPR) enrollees must live at their sponsor’s qualifying residence to stay eligible for TPR. If moving away from home, TPR enrollees may enroll in TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select.

Coverage will remain the same for those enrolled in TRICARE Select, TRICARE Reserve Select, and TRICARE Retired Reserve.

Studying Overseas

If your student attends college overseas on their own, they’re eligible to enroll in TRICARE Overseas Program (TOP) Select. Students who attend college overseas who are command-sponsored and live with their sponsor overseas remain eligible for TOP Prime or TOP Prime Remote. TOP Prime and TOP Prime Remote aren’t available to students living or traveling overseas whose sponsors live in the U.S.

Other Health InsuranceHealth insurance you have in addition to TRICARE, such as Medicare or an employer-sponsored health insurance. TRICARE supplements don’t qualify as "other health insurance."

Some colleges and universities offer a student health plan. Student health plans are other health insurance (OHI). TRICARE pays second to OHI. If you plan to use a student health plan, tell your health care and pharmacy contractors. And update DEERS to show you have OHI.

Coverage After TRICARE Eligibility Ends

Students who no longer qualify for regular TRICARE coverage may qualify to purchase TRICARE Young Adult or Continued Health Care Benefit Program coverage.

For more information on TRICARE options for college students or young adults, visit Going to College. You should also contact your regional contractor if you have questions about health plan options for your child.

Last Updated 6/23/2020