College Financial Aid: Soldiers, Veterans, and Their Families

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Military branches and non-profits provide active duty service members, veterans, and their family members with ample funding opportunities for college. Funding and training for current personnel are usually designed to help you complete a certificate or degree program around your military schedule. Veterans have access to monthly school funding of up to $1,500 per month and career development training. Spouses and children of service members and veterans are often eligible for tuition, educational supply assistance, and child-care aid.

Please note the programs discussed in this article exclusively apply to U.S. military service members.

CURRENT AND PROSPECTIVE SOLDIERS

Armed Forces Tuition Assistance
Who’s Eligible: This program extends to five different military branches with differing requirements:

  • Active duty and reserves in the Air Force
  • Active duty, ARNG on active duty, and reserves in the Army
  • Active duty and naval reserves in AD status for the Navy
  • Active duty service members, selective reservists, and civilian employees for the Coast Guard
  • Active duty Marines

What It Covers: Online programs are eligible. Up to 100% tuition is covered for the following programs:

  • Undergraduate and master’s programs or courses offered by an institution with regional or national accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Expenses for equipment and supply use in lab courses are covered (all branches)
  • Enrollment fees (excluding Coast Guard)
  • Distance learning, Internet, and technology costs (excluding Coast Guard)
  • Special Fees, such as supplies, graduation fees, and campus facility fees (excluding Coast Guard)

How to Apply: Generally, you must first apply to a college, get accepted, meet with a military education officer, and register for classes before turning in a tuition assistance request. Have a list of the specific classes you have registered in and all fee costs. Each military branch has its own application portal and processes linked below.

 

Student Loan Repayment Program (LRP)
Who’s Eligible: Army applicants must have a high school diploma, decline the GI Bill with DD Form 2366, enlist in a critical military occupation specialty, have a loan made under the Higher Education act of 1965, and be a non-prior service accession. Navy and Air Force applicants must meet with an education advisor from their respective branches to determine eligibility.

What It Covers: The Navy and Army will pay a maximum of $65,000 of eligible loans; the Air Force covers up to $10,000 of qualifying loans.

How to Apply: You must contact an education officer in your military branch to begin the LRP process.

 

Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
Who’s Eligible: Some military reserve members who served 90 consecutive days after Sept. 11, 2001.

What it Covers: The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will pay a certain percentage of educational costs, depending on how many consecutive days of active service you have performed. The following may be eligible for educational benefits:

  • An undergraduate or graduate degree at an accredited institution (online, brick-and-mortar, or hybrid programs are all accepted)
  • Cooperative training programs
  • Correspondence courses
  • Flight training
  • On-the-job training or apprenticeships
  • Vocational school certificates or diplomas

How to Apply: Once you decide on a program, check to see if it is on the list of . Fill out the VA Form 22-1990 online by clicking the ‘Apply for Benefits’ tab. You must apply before your courses start, and you will be reimbursed after course completion.

 

Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS)
Who’s Eligible: Active duty Regular Army Officers working toward positions that require a graduate level degree. Applicants must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 and a minimum GRE score of 500, even if the graduate school does not require GRE test scores. Those entering management-related degree programs must have a minimum score of 500 on the GMAT.

What It Covers: Full-time master’s and Ph.D. degree programs from a nationally accredited university are eligible, as are accredited online programs. You must be working toward a specific officer position that requires a graduate degree.

How to Apply: Log into the U.S. Army Human Resources Command to find the application.

 

Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC)
Who’s Eligible: benefits cover high school, college students, and enlisted soldiers. Graduate students who have two years of classes remaining can also apply for ROTC scholarships. Marine and Navy ROTC benefits are reserved for high school graduates starting a four-year undergraduate program. The Air Force ROTC program is open to freshmen and sophomore high school students; undergraduate juniors and seniors who will serve with the Air Force for four years after graduation; and currently enlisted airmen.

What It Covers: Online programs are not eligible. Generally, these branches offer various scholarships and on-campus military leadership courses that lead to an officer career upon completion.

How to Apply: Each military branch has its own deadlines and application processes. For more information, visit the respective sites below:

 

Military Graduate Medical Education
Who’s Eligible: Medical students enrolled in accredited civilian graduate programs that are part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program or the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).

What It Covers: Online programs are not eligible. Tuition benefits and military pay are extended to students enrolled in the HPSP scholarship. USUHS students earn active duty benefits, medical residency, officer ranking, housing pay, military basic pay, and sustenance pay as they complete medical school.

How to Apply: Medical students can find graduate medical education forms and processes for various military branches listed below:

VETERANS

The Montgomery GI Bill
Who’s Eligible: Armed Forces veterans who were placed on active duty for a certain period of time after June 30, 1985. Members of the Selective Reserve may also qualify for the GI Bill, if they have a six-year obligation for service Armed forces applicants must have been honorably discharged. You must have a high school diploma to use the GI Bill.

What It Covers: Online schools are eligible. Students who are enrolled full-time will receive $1,564 a month. This is used for undergraduate or graduate tuition reimbursement at an accredited institution or cooperative training program. Other programs and services covered by the bill include:

  • Correspondence courses
  • Vocational school diplomas and certificates
  • Independent study classes from accredited institutions used toward a certificate
  • Flight training
  • Apprenticeships
  • Prep courses for college-level testing

How to Apply: See if the GI Bill covers your chosen educational program by visiting the VA database.

 

The Post 9/11 GI Bill
Who’s Eligible: Armed Forces veterans who served on active duty 90 continuous days or more after Sept. 11, 2001.

What It Covers: Full resident tuition and fees for public universities are covered, and online programs are also eligible. Students must be enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs at an accredited college or cooperative training program in order to receive assistance. The following costs are also partially or fully covered:

  • Monthly housing
  • Books and class supplies costs
  • Correspondence courses
  • Vocational school diplomas and certificates
  • Flight training
  • Apprenticeships
  • Prep courses for college-level testing

How to Apply: See if the GI Bill covers your chosen educational program by visiting the VA database; if you’re eligible to receive assistance, you can apply online.

 

Yellow Ribbon Program
Who’s Eligible: Veterans who have served for at least 36 consecutive months since Sept. 10, 2001. You must receive an honorable discharge from service.

What It Covers: Online programs are eligible. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs from select institutions that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. Resident tuition and fees are covered if you are enrolled in public schools, and reduced fees are covered if you attend a private school.

How to Apply: Check to see if your school is listed in the . If you’re eligible to receive funding from the program, you can you can apply online.

 

Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
Who’s Eligible: Unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 who are retired from the regular Army, Army national guard, or Army reserve.

What It Covers: Eligible students receive up to $1,564 per month for 12 months of courses at a technical or vocational school, leading to an associate’s degree or certificate in a high-demand career field; students who enroll in accredited online programs are also eligible.

How to Apply: Fill out an eBenefits application on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website.

 

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program
Who’s Eligible: Veterans and active duty members who have disabilities from their active duty service.

What It Covers: Students enrolled in online programs are not eligible to receive financial assistance. Once you begin the program, you meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to create a viable rehabilitation plan. Reemployment, job placement, independent living services, and self-employment are some of the options a rehabilitation plan includes.

How to Apply: Fill out an eBenefits application on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website.

FAMILY MEMBERS

All Military Branches

GI Bill Transfer of Benefits
Who’s Eligible: If you are a service member, you may transfer unused benefits to a spouse or dependent children. You must have served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve for at least six years or be retirement eligible. You must agree to an additional four years of service to transfer benefits.

What It Covers: Undergraduate or graduate degree tuition for an accredited college or cooperative training program. Online programs are also eligible; the full reimbursement amount is variable, and based on the remaining benefits the sponsor has. Other services covered by the bill include:

  • Some monthly housing costs
  • Book and supply fees
  • Correspondence courses
  • Vocational school diplomas and certificates
  • Flight training
  • Apprenticeships
  • Prep courses for college-level testing

How to Apply: You can visit the milConnect website and use your DoD Self Service User ID, DFAS PIN, or Common Access Card service member credentials to log in and apply for a benefit transfer.

 

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)
Who’s Eligible: Your spouse may qualify if you are an active duty Guard or Reserve member in pay grades 01-02, E1-E5, or W1-W2.

What It Covers: Online programs are eligible under this program. Other benefits include:

  • A maximum of $4,000 in aid
  • Licensing and credentialing fees for career advancement purposes
  • Continuing Education Units (CEUS) in specific career fields
  • GED and ESL courses and test fees

How to Apply: Once your spouse chooses an academic program, they can create a MyCAA account and apply for assistance 30 days before courses begin.

 

Service members Opportunity Colleges
Who’s Eligible: Active military service members, spouses, and dependent children.

What It Covers: Any student pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree from the list of colleges that participate within the SOC Consortium is eligible to receive aid; those who enroll in online institutions included on the list are also eligible. These academic programs have been picked because their teaching methods focus on helping mobile service members and families complete their degree programs, even while traveling on duty.

How to Apply: Each military branch has its own deadlines and application processes. For more information, visit the respective sites below:

Survivors and Dependents Assistance Program
Who’s Eligible: If a service member is permanently disabled, missing in action, killed in duty, detained, or discharged due to service-related disabilities, their spouse may qualify for this benefit program.

What It Covers: Full-time students at undergraduate or graduate degree programs from accredited institutions and cooperative colleges (either online or offline) will receive $987 per month. Other programs and services covered by the program include:

  • Correspondence courses
  • Vocational or technical certificate programs
  • Apprenticeships
  • Farm cooperative classes
  • College exam prep courses
  • Professional licensure or certification tests

How to Apply: Find out if the program covers your chosen academic institution by contacting the VA or checking with the financial aid office at your school. File VA Form 22-5490 and mail the completed application to the office serving your home state.

 

Army

Army Emergency Relief (Spouse Education Assistance Program)
Who’s Eligible: If you are an active duty or retired soldier, your spouse or dependent children may qualify for need-based scholarships.

What It Covers: Students who enroll in four-year college degree programs from institutions approved of by the U.S. Department of Education will receive between $2,500 and $4,500 in tuition assistance. Some online students are also eligible.

How to Apply: Spouses and dependent children must gather their high school transcripts and a Student Aid Report after completing the FAFSA. If the soldier is on active duty or on title 10 orders, he or she may have to file additional paperwork. Applications must be submitted on the Army Emergency Relief website by May 1st to receive funding for the Fall semester during the same year.

 

Air Force

Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program
Who’s Eligible: You can apply for the General Henry H. Arnold education grant if you are the dependent child of an active duty or retired Air Force member. If your parent has passed away during their active duty or retired status, you may also qualify for this grant. You must be a high school graduate to receive funding.

What It Covers: Full-time students enrolled at a four-year accredited college (online or offline) that has been approved of by the U.S. Department of Education will receive $2,000 in tuition assistance.

How to Apply: Applicants must submit a copy of the sponsoring Air Force member’s military ID, along with their active duty assignment orders, retirement orders, or death certificate. Completed applications are due by March 8 if you wish to receive funding for the Fall semester during the same year. You will also need to submit high school transcripts and an essay. You can learn more about the application and selection process at the Air Force Aid Society website.

 

Air Force Aid Society Merit Scholarship
Who’s Eligible: If you have already completed the Henry H. Arnold Education Grant application, your application will automatically be reviewed as a potential candidate for this scholarship.

What It Covers: Students who attend a four-year accredited college (online or offline) that has been approved of by the U.S. Department of Education will receive $5,000 for tuition.

How to Apply: See the instructions for the Henry H. Arnold Grant Program, mentioned above. There is no separate application for the merit scholarship – grant applicants will be considered and awarded the scholarship if their GPA, test scores, and essay meet certain criteria.

 

Navy and Marine Corps

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Education Assistance
Who’s Eligible: You can apply for loans and scholarships if you are a spouse or child of an active or retired service member. Wounded veterans who have participated in specific Navy and Marine Corps operations may qualify for educational scholarships. Also Navy and Marine Corps members on active duty enrolled in the Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program or the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program may be eligible for need-based loans.

What It Covers: Students who attend a post-secondary education (online or offline) at accredited academic institutions in the U.S. may receive between $500 and $3,000.

How to Apply: Once the application period opens on Nov. 1, the documents and processes for the upcoming academic school year are posted on the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society website.

 

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation
Who’s Eligible: You may qualify if you have a parent who is an active duty Marine or reserve member, or a Navy Corpsman who has served with the U.S. Marines. Additionally, you should apply if your parent is a veteran who left the Marines with an honorable discharge, medical discharge, or if they were killed during their service. Service members’ grandchildren may apply if the sponsoring grandparent served with associations like the 4th Marine Division Association of WWII, the 3rd Battalion, or the 531 Grey Ghost Squadron.

What It Covers: Recipients will receive tuition support for their first technical certificate or bachelor’s degree at an accredited undergraduate institution; students who attend accredited online programs may also be eligible.

How to Apply: The applications become available on Jan. 1 and must be turned in by March 1 to qualify the applicant for funding during the fall semester of the same year. You will need the sponsoring parent or grandparent’s DD214 Character of Service paperwork, a self-portrait, an official high school transcript, and your family’s current tax information to complete the application process.

 

Coast Guard

Coast Guard Mutual Aid (CGMA)
Who’s Eligible: The spouse and children of active duty and retired Coast Guard members, Coast Guard Selected Reserve members, Coast Guard Civilian staff, Public Health Officers working with the Coast Guard, and Coast Guard Auxiliarists. Children must be younger than 23 years of age to apply.

What It Covers: Online programs are eligible, but this aid does not include any tuition support. The CGMA offers up to $500 per year for supplies that are not commonly covered by educational aid, including the following items:

  • Textbooks
  • Audio tapes and videos
  • Scientific calculators
  • Enrollment fees
  • Lab fees
  • Registration fees
  • Graduation fees
  • Technology and internet fees
  • Art supplies

How to Apply: You can find the application online, with separate paperwork covering the process for the various grants and loans offered by the CGMA. Once the appropriate paperwork is complete, you must send the documents to your local CGMA representative.
 

USCG Foundation Education Grant Program
Who’s Eligible: If your spouse is an active duty or reserve Coast Guard employee or Reservist in the E-3 to E-6 range, you are eligible to apply for this grant. You must be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program.
What It Covers: As with CGMA — online programs are eligible, but this aid does not provide any tuition support. Up to $500 per year is allotted for supplies not commonly covered by educational aid, including the following items:

  • Textbooks
  • Child care costs
  • Transportation

How to Apply: Once you have enrolled in your courses, you can download the CGI-1570 form online. The process requires proof of course enrollment, a written essay, financial information for need assessment, and your spouse’s signature. Once you have completed the application, you can mail, email, or fax it to the CG Institute.

ADDITIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS

NAUS Scholarship Program
Who’s Eligible: Members of the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) and their children. NAUS is a non-profit organization that dedicates its efforts to protecting the benefits of active and retired military service members and their families. Applicants must be enrolled

What It Covers: Successful applicants who enroll at an accredited institution that grants undergraduate degrees or certificates (online programs may be eligible) will receive $2,500 toward their tuition.

How to Apply: The application process begins near the end of each year. Keep an eye on the NAUS website for continuing updates.

 

MOAA Scholarships and Grants
Who’s Eligible: You may be eligible for these funding options if your parents are active duty, National Guard, or reserve personnel who suffered traumatic wounds or were killed during service.

What It Covers: Eligible students receive up to $5,000 in scholarships, interest-free loans, or grants for their first undergraduate degree at an accredited brick-and-mortar or online college.

How to Apply: The application process for MOAA funding opens every year in November. Online applications must be turned in the next year by March 1. If you are selected to receive funding, you will be informed in May.

 

NMFA Military Spouse Scholarships
Who’s Eligible: Spouses of active duty, National Guard, reserve, retired, and survivor military personnel may all be considered for this scholarship.

What It Covers: Students who enroll in either brick-and-mortar or online schools may be eligible for the scholarship; recipients will earn up to $1,000 for tuition, fees, and room and board for one of the following programs:

  • GED and ESL courses
  • Vocational training
  • Undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Professional certifications

How to Apply: Applications are available online starting on Dec. 1. They must be turned in by Jan. 31. Those who are selected for an award will be notified by March 17.