Currently, Veterans, military personnel and their Families, and National Guard service members have many resources available to help them fund their college education. They may be eligible for loans, grants, work-study programs or scholarships—or a combination thereof—that can significantly reduce their tuition and other costs.
Financial aid is often awarded based on grade average or test scores, but it may be offered for a variety of factors, including:
- Specific majors
- Special interests or experience
- Students from specific States
- Minority students
It is definitely worthwhile to research and exhaust every resource. Toward that end, some basic information to assist in a financial aid search follows.
A large number of scholarships are available from many different sources, including private organizations. For a comprehensive guide on financial aid, including available scholarships, check out “Financial Aid for Veterans, Military Personnel and Their Families” (Schlacter/Weber; Reference Service Press, 2010). Often referred to as the “big white book,” this reference volume is updated annually with the most current information, rules and rates.
FREE APPLICATION FOR FEDERAL STUDENT AID (FAFSA)
To evaluate financial need, the U.S. Department of Education requires everyone applying for a federal student loan or grant to complete the FAFSA. This document helps verify eligible students’ financial status to make certain they receive the full award amount to which they are entitled.
Eligible students can then fill out an FAFSA online or download a paper PDF version to be filled out manually. The online version helps eliminate delays and allows editing of the application. More information and online assistance is available at studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.
FEDERAL PELL GRANTS
A Federal Pell Grant can be an excellent starting block for college funding. Unlike a loan, the need-based Pell Grant does not have to be repaid, and it can be used in conjunction with other scholarships and loans.
Generally, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree or professional degree. Exceptions may be made on occasion for students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.
To be considered for a Federal Pell Grant, submit an FAFSA as described in the previous section.
The maximum amount for the 2019–20 award year (July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020) is $6,195. The amount an individual student may receive depends on a number of factors, including:
- Financial need
- School costs
- Whether attending full or part time
- Whether attending for the entire school year
Special consideration is given to eligible students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001. This category of students must be under 24 years old or enrolled in college, either full or part time, at the time of their parent or guardian’s death.
Find out more about Federal Pell Grants at www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html.
Several types of federal student loans are available. These loans charge low interest rates, but repayment of the full amount of the loan plus interest fees is required.
The types of loans include:
- Perkins: Paid through the student’s school of choice, this low-interest loan is available to undergraduate and graduate students with the greatest need.
- Direct Stafford: Loans issued directly through the federal government to cover costs at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career or technical school. Stafford loans may be available to students with or without demonstrating financial need.
- Direct PLUS (for graduate and professional degree students): Allows graduate and professional degree students to receive federal loans to cover costs of their advanced degree.
- Direct PLUS (for parent borrowers): Allows parents of dependent children to help pay for the student’s education costs.
- Direct Loan Consolidation: Allows the borrower to combine multiple federal loans into a single loan.
- With any federal student loan, each student must also submit an FAFSA.
With some loans, students will not be required to begin repayment until a grace period (from six to nine months) following graduation. Others will require setting up a payment that will begin while the student is still in school. Borrowers may usually take 10 to 25 years to repay the full loan amount, depending on the plan.
Learn more about student loans at studentaid.ed.gov/sa/, or contact a State education services officer (ESO) for more information.
GoArmyEd is the Army’s virtual gateway to tuition assistance. All eligible Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers can access GoArmyEd online anytime to manage education records, including college classes, testing, on-duty classes and Army Education Counselor support.
Army COOL (Credentialing Opportunities On-Line) helps Soldiers get the necessary credentials and certifications to turn Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) into civilian positions. Get information, find the right license and certification, and learn how to fill gaps between Army training and experience and civilian credentialing requirements.
Service members Opportunity Colleges (SOC) is a national network of higher education associations and over 1,900 member colleges nationwide. Receive a specific college plan and access the SOC Army Degree (SOCAD) and SOCAD Army Career Degree programs. These programs offer credit transfers, college credit for military training and many other educational benefits. Visit the SOC website or contact your State ESO.
If unsure whether a school is accredited, use the Department of Education’s online School Finder database to find accreditation information on a specific school or see a complete list of accredited schools.
Current Guard Soldiers can get information on education programs by emailing the Guard Support Center or calling 866-628-5999.
Article Supplied by NationalGuard.com