Student Aid for Veterans and Service Members

Higher education or vocational training can sometimes be the key to finding the ideal career. However, these options can also mean very high costs.

For those of you who are a part of or connected with the U.S. military, there are benefits you can take advantage of to help with your education. You may select one of the many benefit programs that provides funds for your studies after or during your service or receive assistance in repaying a student loan. You might even choose to enlist as a Reserve Officer, training and studying at the same time.

For veterans, there are several financial aid options available. Some are available to those who have been injured or disabled as a result of their service. Other benefits and programs offer funding to the children and spouses of those who have been wounded or killed in action. There are a number of sources of aid for both service members as well as their families.

Federal Education Benefits for Veterans

Education benefits are made available through federal funding to veterans, service members and their dependants. Unique options and opportunities are provided through each of these programs:

  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill can offer a variety of benefits, including financial assistance for tuition, books and even a housing allowance. Service members must have served at least three months of active duty to qualify for the program. Dependants can benefit from the program, as well.
  • The Montgomery GI Bill requires a buy-in taken from your pay, but covers a number of apprenticeship, entrepreneurship and vocational training courses to help you in your career. It is particularly useful for technical education and training. You may use it while on active duty, or for up to 10 years after separation.
  • The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) benefits are based on the length of time for which you served on active duty. They cover many of the same courses and tests as the Montgomery GI Bill.
  • The Veterans Educational Assistance Program is available to those who served between 1977 and 1985. It requires you to have contributed to the program with your military pay but will match every dollar paid in with two, up to a certain amount.
  • The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program offers benefits to the dependants of those who have either died or become completely disabled as a result of active service. Children between the ages of 18 and 26 can obtain bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and apprenticeships. Spouses can do the same or choose to take a correspondence or online course.
  • Vocational Rehab is a service provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, assisting disabled veterans in training for new types of work. This can include pursuing a degree or certificate at a college or university.

ROTC Scholarships

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) offers a number of scholarships to its service members at selected schools. You may be able to apply before joining the military, but if you are accepted then the requirements will involve service duties as well as academic achievements for these scholarships:

  • Army ROTC scholarships require an eight-year commitment, with four years on active duty and four in the Inactive Ready Reserve. You can receive the full value of your tuition, as well as funds for books and fees.
  • Airforce ROTC scholarships, offered in a variety of subjects, require a summer training course as well as a General Military Course and Professional Officers’ course to be completed during your studies. Afterwards, four years of active duty as an officer are required.
  • Marine ROTC scholarships focus on learning skills through special training courses as well as through college. Some are offered in specialized areas, such as supporting students attending ethnic minority-serving schools.
  • Navy ROTC scholarships will require either four or five years of service, depending on which scholarship you qualify for, and will provide full tuition, book costs and a monthly allowance.

Loan Assistance

As well as receiving help from scholarships and grants, service members may also be able to take advantage of assistance offered through their student loans. For example, if you enter active military duty, any student loans you took out beforehand will be limited to six percent interest during your service. Direct loans taken out after 2008 can go 60 months without any interest being charged at all while you serve active military or National Guard duty.

Payments on your federal loans can be deferred while you serve on active duty. This can benefit full time service members, or those who have been called up from a reserve force while still enrolled in education. The length of the deferment will depend on when your service starts, and possibly on the date you return to your studies. Some types of student loans may even allow you to qualify for loan forgiveness, provided you meet the qualifications and requirements.

Further Assistance

If you are the dependant of a service member or veteran, there are several types of assistance available to you. Dependants of parents or guardians who died as a result of military service after 9/11 are eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, for example. You will need to be under the age of 24 and enrolled in full time schooling. If you have a low income, you may instead qualify for Additional Federal Pell Grant Funds. Pell grants are generally based on your financial need, but in this case, you will automatically be placed in the bracket of highest financial need and will receive a higher grant amount.

There are many other organizations offering financial aid to the spouses or children of veterans and service members. The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, for example, supports thousands of dependants of Marines who have been wounded or killed in action. Some groups offer support for both service members and their dependants through a variety of scholarships and grants. A few of the organizations offering educational assistance include the following:

  • American Legion
  • AMVETS
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Air Force Aid Society
  • Navy Marine Corps Relief Society
  • Coast Guard Mutual Aid
  • ThanksUSA

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