Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill® went into effect in 2009, more U.S. service members and veterans have begun using their military education benefits, according to the American Council on Education. Service members pursuing higher education must consider the cost of all education-related expenses, including tuition, books, special tools, equipment, and materials. Non-distance learners should also account for gas, tolls, parking, and potential childcare services.
Fortunately, students with a military background have several financial aid opportunities. The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers federally funded education assistance to veterans and service members who served after Sept. 10, 2001. Many schools offer tuition assistance programs for military students and their families, such as reduced tuition rates, flexible payment plans, student loans, grants, and veteran college scholarships.
Financial Aid Programs for
Military and Veterans
The Montgomery GI Bill®
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) is a flexible educational assistance program offered by the U.S. government for veterans with two or more years of military experience.
- What’s Covered: MGIB covers educational expenses, such as tuition, for undergraduate, certificate, technical, and vocational programs, plus on-the-job training and certification and licensing tests and fees. Students can use awarded funds for up to three years.
- Who’s Covered: Students must hold a high school diploma or GED and have a minimum of two years of active duty service experience. For more details on eligibility criteria, prospective students should visit the GI Bill page.
- How to Apply: MGIB applicants must have their social security numbers, and information on their military history, education background, and bank account and routing numbers for direct deposits. Veterans interested in MGIB aid can apply with the VA Form 22-1990.
Post-9/11 GI Bill®
The Post 9/11 GI Bill is an educational assistance program offered by the U.S. government for veterans and qualified dependents of veterans who served after September 10, 2001.
- What’s Covered: The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used to pay for tuition for independent and distance learning programs, plus vocational, technical, and on-the-job trainings. Aid can also go toward tutorial assistance, housing, books, supplies, and licensing and certification tests and fees. Recipients can use awarded funds for up to three years.
- Who’s Covered: Students must hold a high school diploma or GED and have a minimum of 90 days of active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001. Applicants who qualify for more than one VA education benefit must only use one.
- How to Apply: To apply for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, students must provide their social security number, military history, education background, and direct deposit information. Applicants must complete and submit the VA Form 22-1990.
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon program was designed to help veterans and qualified dependents pay for tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs matches the amount of funding awarded to a student as determined by the school. Program participation is voluntary for schools, so interested students must make sure their school participates.
- What’s Covered: The Yellow Ribbon program covers costs not met by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, such as expenses for private institutions, out-of-state universities, or graduate programs.
- Who’s Covered: Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED, have a minimum of 90 days of active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and qualify for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- How to Apply: To apply for the Yellow Ribbon program, students must provide their social security number, military history, education background, and direct deposit information. Applicants must complete and submit the VA Form 22-1990.
National Call to Service
The National Call to Service program is an educational incentive program provided by the U.S. Department of Defense. It has a three-tiered service requirement for eligibility, including a combination of training and active duty service. Qualified students can choose their incentive.
- What’s Covered: The National Call to Service program offers multiple incentives: a cash bonus of $5,000, student loan repayment for up to $18,000, a one-year monthly allowance, or benefits associated with the MGIB.
- Who Qualifies: Students are obligated to have completed initial entry training, 15 months of active duty service in a military occupational specialty, and serve two additional periods of active duty in the Selected Reserve or as determined by the Secretary of Defense.
- How to Apply: To apply for the National Call to Service program, students must provide their social security number, military history, education background, and direct deposit information through the VA Form 22-1990N.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program is an educational assistance program for dependents of veterans who died or went missing in the line of duty, or who became disabled due to injury, capture, or detainment. Students can use this flexible benefit for up to 81 months, depending on circumstances.
- What’s Covered: DEA benefits include costs related to college tuition, certification tests, licensing fees, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and tutorial assistance programs. Funds are paid directly to students each month.
- Who Qualifies: Students must be a surviving spouse, son, or daughter of a veteran who died, went missing, or became permanently disabled as a result of active service. Dependent children must be between the ages of 18 and 26.
- How to Apply: To apply for DEA, students must provide their social security number, military history, education background, and direct deposit information. Applicants must complete and submit the VA Form 22-549.
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Scholarships for Military and Veterans
Veterans have several scholarship programs to choose from to help fund their college education:
U.S. Army Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The North American Van Lines Military Scholarship awards five veteran college scholarships to active military students pursuing an undergraduate degree in business, logistics, or management. Applicants must submit an essay. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: The Army Aviation Association of America awards scholarships to undergraduate or graduate students who attend accredited educational institutions. Applicants must submit a 300-word essay and have current AAAA membership. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: The HORIZONS scholarship awards women pursuing careers in business and accounting as it relates to national security and defense. Applicants must submit an essays and letters of recommendation. – Amount: Varies
U.S. Navy Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Active-duty service members and veterans are encouraged to apply for the eLearners scholarship essay contest. Applicants must submit a 250-word essay about how their military service has enhanced their lives and pursuit of higher education. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: U.S. Navy members can apply for Sigma Chi Foundation merit-based veteran scholarships for college, available to undergraduate or graduate Sigma Chi fraternity members and pledges. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: The Imagine America Foundation offers need-based educational assistance scholarships for active duty, reservists, and veterans of the U.S. Navy. To apply, students must submit a completed application after watching a video. – Amount: $1,000
U.S. Air Force Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Captain Jodi Callahan Memorial Scholarship provides graduate education assistance to active duty service members and reservists of the Air Force. Applicants must submit a 600-word essay and have a minimum GPA of 3.0. – Amount: $1,000
U.S. Marine Corps Scholarships
Who Can Apply: U.S. Marines can apply for the Robert W. Brunsman Memorial Scholarship through the International Military Community Executives’ Association. Applicants must submit an essay. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: Women’s Marine Association offers multiple veteran scholarships for college for U.S. Marine Corps active duty service members and reservists, and their family members. Students must attend an accredited college, university, or college-level trade school. – Amount: $1,500 or $3,000
Who Can Apply: This national organization of women who have served overseas awards several veteran college scholarships to women who have completed a minimum of 12 semester hours. Applicants must submit an essay and have a minimum GPA of 2.5. – Amount: $500 or $1,000
National Guard Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Virginia Advisory Council on Military Education is a nonprofit organization providing educational support for National Guard members. Applicants must submit a statement of community service and an essay about how the military has influenced their educational goals. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: The Pat Tillman Foundation offers several veteran scholarships for college to active-duty service members and veterans, including those from the National Guard, through the Tillman Scholars program. Applicants must submit two essays and a character recommendation from a third-party. – Amount: $10,000
Who Can Apply: The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors multiple veteran scholarships and grants for college for wartime veterans and Legion program participants, plus their family members. Awards are based on a mixture of character and leadership skills, plus an essay, financial need, and academic merit. – Amount: $2,000-$5,000
Coast Guard Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Veterans of the Coast Guard can apply for the TonaLaw scholarship. To be eligible, students must be enrolled at an accredited school. Award recipients are selected by a committee. – Amount: $1,000
Who Can Apply: The Coast Guard Foundation offers several veteran scholarships for college to active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Funds can be used to help pay for textbook and other out-of-pocket fees not covered by the GI bill. – Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Members of the national guard can apply for a legacy scholarship as alumni of the Staunton Military Academy Alumni Foundation. Applicants must submit a cover letter explaining what the words “Truth, Duty, and Honor” mean to them. – Amount: Minimum of $1,500
Military Families Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Hope for the Warriors program is geared towards caregivers and spouses of members of the military. Students must be pursuing an undergraduate degree at a reputable, accredited educational institution. Applicants must submit an essay and complete a questionnaire. – Amount: Varies
Who Can Apply: Wells Fargo offers military veterans and spouses of disabled veterans educational assistance in the form of renewable scholarships. Applicants must be honorably discharged, have a high school diploma or GED certificate and minimum GPA of 2.5. – Amount: Up to $7,000
Who Can Apply: The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation offers competitive grants to spouses, children, and stepchildren of members or former members of the submarine force. Students must attend, undergraduate, trade, or vocational studies. – Amount: $2,000 to $3,400
Resources for Active Military and Veterans
- Military OneSource: Military OneSource is a great resource for military personnel and veterans. Provided by the the Department of Veterans Affairs, OneSource connects individuals to employment opportunities, educational resources, and compensation programs.
- Veterans Employment Center: The U.S. Department of Labor provides a Veterans Employment Center to connect veterans and their families with potential employers. This resource helps military personnel transition into civilian careers.
- American Society of Military Comptrollers: ASMC is a nonprofit organization for financial management professionals. Members gain access to educational and professional development events and conferences, plus networking opportunities.
- Military Skills Translator: The military skills translator helps military personnel and veterans decide which degree or career to pursue by converting their military experience into civilian language.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: HHS provides many resources for active service members and veterans, plus their families. Resources include educational and training opportunities, and health and wellness benefits.
* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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