Going back to school after serving your country doesn’t need to come with an exorbitant price tag. There are options available to you as a veteran and adult that making earning your college degree financially feasible without putting you or your family in a financial hardship. Continue reading to discover financial aid options that will make graduation more possible than ever before.
Related Article: What Veterans Need to Know Before Going Back to School
Your first consideration as you go back to school should be which benefits are available to you as a current or former service member. Using your VA benefits to earn your degree is a smart, frugal way to save money and make the most of your time in service.
Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (Chapter 30)
Veterans and servicemembers with at least 2 years of active duty service may be eligible for this type of aid, which provides educational benefits for 3 years and varies depending on whether you contributed to the buy-up program. To learn more and see if you qualify, click here.
Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606)
If you currently serve or were honorably discharged from the Selected Reserve, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard or Air National Guard, you may be eligible for up to 3 years of educational benefits. Eligible participants must have a 6-year enlistment, or reenlistment, beginning on or after July 1, 1985. Before beginning your education, you must have a high school diploma or GED, as well as completed your initial date active training. To learn more about this program, click here.
Reserve Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 1607)
This Department of Defense education benefit program was designed to provide educational assistance to members of the Reserve components called or ordered to active duty in response to a war or national emergency (contingency operation) as declared by the president or Congress. This new program makes certain reservists who were activated for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001, either eligible for education benefits or eligible for increased benefits. Learn more here.
Montgomery (MGIB) & Post 9/11 GI Bills®
The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) will state the student’s benefit award, the percentage if applicable, and delimiting date that the benefit can be used. Fill out the application to apply for those benefits.
Survivors’ & Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA / FRY Scholarship)
Students who are a spouse or dependents of service members who are 100% disabled or died while on active duty due to service-related condition may be eligible for assistance through this program. Dependents or the spouse of a person who is listed as a POW or MIA are also eligible.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Yellow Ribbon Program supports students as they study at private institutions or study as out-of-state students. Both undergraduates and graduate students are eligible to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (Chapter 31)
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program provides qualifying veterans with assistance in training for a job, making accommodations for work, help with resume updating, and guidance in your job search!
Military/Civilian Tuition Assistance (TA)
Tuition assistance is a Department of Defense program that varies by branch of service and service units. Be sure to ask your education service officer about available assistance and application forms. Tuition Assistance (TA) DECIDE is a new tool developed by the Department of Defense that can help you understand these benefits.
Related Article: What Are Your Options for VA Education Benefits?
As with VA benefits, grants are considered “free” money you can be eligible for based on a variety of factors, like income, socioeconomic status, and more. To apply for federal grants, you have to submit a Federal Application for Student Financial Aid, and your college’s financial aid office will let you know which programs you qualify for. Additionally, you may have access to grants based on where you live. For example, students in Oklahoma may be eligible for the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant program, which provides educational grants to college students.
As with education benefits and grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid. However, you will need to apply for this type of aid. Some applications are simple and may not take much time, but some require longer forms or essays. While many scholarship funds are set up for students entering college upon high school graduation, there are still plenty of options for adult students who return to school later in life. As a veteran, you will also be able to apply for scholarships the general population can’t. Take your time to research options and speak with your college’s financial aid office to find reputable scholarship search tools.
If you no longer serve active duty or are in the reserves, it’s likely you work full-time to cover your living expenses and support your family. Did you know many employers offer tuition assistance as a benefit? You may be able to have all or a portion of your tuition paid directly through your employer or reimbursed each semester!
This is offered tax-free up to $5,250 per year. This form of aid only covers tuition for courses, fees, and course materials. Examples of what’s not covered include associated meals, travel, and room and board.
Connect with your company’s HR department to learn what benefits are available to you and what steps you need to take to access them. Be sure to ask what stipulations exist around tuition assistance and take steps for approval before enrolling in courses to ensure you receive all eligible aid. If this is your second degree or an advanced degree, be sure to check that you are able to use this benefit.
Oftentimes, returning to school to earn your bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree is well worth the investment. Most research indicates as educational level increases, so does income. However, financing a degree before the promotion can be a little trickier. Use the resources above to make this investment in yourself and your future possible.
Still have questions? Our financial aid team offers free consultations to discuss your unique financial situation and educational goals. Email email@example.com today to learn how you can make higher education an affordable reality.