Like all parents, service members often need help to pay the high cost of college tuition. Fortunately, many scholarships, tuition assistance programs and benefits exist just for the children of service members. But finding the right programs could feel like being stuck in a rainforest without a guide. To keep you on the right path, you need to know about:
• Where to start
• Types of scholarships
• Military-specific scholarships and loans
• Other loans and education grants
• Veterans’ benefits
• In-state tuition benefits
• School-specific aid
• How to search for more scholarships
Tuition funds are available if military families know where to look. The following information will point you in the right direction.
TUITION HELP FOR MILITARY CHILDREN
One day, you wake up and look at your children and realize they’re not little kids anymore. How did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday you were changing their diapers? This is how most parents feel when their children are nearing those pricey college years. Fortunately, there are ways to make your way through the tangle of demands without going broke.
WHERE TO START
It all starts with a form (of course). Many programs require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. This form is necessary when applying for most types of federal aid. Some schools and scholarships also use the FAFSA to screen applicants for tuition assistance.
Students fill out the FAFSA, but parents also must provide financial information if the student is a dependent. Check the website months before your student plans to start school to make sure you meet FAFSA’s deadlines.
TYPES OF SCHOLARSHIPS
Some scholarships are open to children of service members, including those whose parents have retired from the military.
• Scholarships based on a military parent’s service – Scholarships may be available if the parent belongs to a certain branch of service; serves in a specific specialty; served as a part of a specific military effort or war or were on board a specific vessel; or was injured or died during military service. A student may also find a scholarship if his or her parent or grandparent belongs to certain military related organizations.
• Scholarships based on a student’s attributes – Students pursuing specific careers may qualify for certain scholarships based on heritage, race or ethnic background. A student may also find a scholarship based on his or her hometownor if he or she plans to study abroad.
MILITARY-SPECIFIC SCHOLARSHIP AND LOAN PROGRAMS
Need more good news? Several scholarships focus on military children, including those sponsored by:
Air Force Aid Society: The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program gives need-based grants to children of active duty Air Force members, as well as some reservists and retirees.
Army Emergency Relief: The MG James Ursano Scholarship Fund offers scholarships for children of active-duty soldiers, retirees or those who died in service. These scholarships can be used for undergraduate studies or vocational training, or they can be used to help a student prepare to enter a military academy.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society: The Vice Admiral E.P. Travers Scholarship And Loan Program provides financial aid to children and spouses of active duty and retired sailors and Marines. Find more ways to finance your child’s education on the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance page.
Scholarships for Military Children: Scholarships of at least $1,500 per student are supported by the companies that sell goods to the Defense Commissary Agency.
OTHER LOANS AND GRANTS
But wait – you’ve got even more options. The federal government offers low-interest and no-interest loans. The FAFSA is required for these loans, and both parents and students can apply. Federal grant programs are also available. Search the Department of Education Student Aid on the Web for details.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers programs that help cover the cost of tuition not only for military service members, but in some cases, their dependents:
The GI Bill® – If you’re eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, you may be able to transfer the benefits to your children. To transfer benefits, you must have been serving on active duty or in the reserves as of Aug. 1, 2009 and meet certain timein service requirements.
Dependents Educational Assistance Program – The GI Bill® Dependents Educational Assistance Program assists eligible children ages 18 to 26 with funding for undergraduate and graduate programs, certificate programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training.
IN-STATE TUITION BENEFITS
Get bonus savings by going to college in your own state. Members of the armed forces on active duty and their families can receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in the state where they reside or are permanently stationed. Family members receive the in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled at the institution, even if the service member is reassigned outside the state.
Go straight to the source – your child’s future college. Students should talk with financial aid counselors to discuss school-specific scholarships, grants, work-study programs, internships and other financial sources. Military children with excellent grades may be able to negotiate financial aid with the school of their choice.
SEARCHING FOR MORE SCHOLARSHIPS
With so many scholarships, finding the right ones for your child can be confusing. So as you weave through the maze of decision making, keep the following in mind:
• Target your efforts. Many scholarship programs ask applicants to write long essays or perform other time consuming tasks, so encourage your child to focus on the scholarships he or she is most likely to receive.
• Be wary. Be sure a program is legitimate before applying for any scholarship. Look out for websites or agencies that charge money for their searches. Avoid scholarships with application fees. These scholarships are often frauds. And be careful about sending out financial aid forms, since the information they contain could allow someone to steal your identity.
• Look at the many free websites available. A quick Internet search will direct you to a number of college scholarship websites that cost nothing to access.
The financial aid journey doesn’t stop after your child’s first year – it continues throughout your child’s education. Many scholarships and grants are also available to older students, and some funding is available as a student moves through the program.
Don’t get discouraged. There are plenty of options out there just waiting for you to access them.•
– Military OneSource