Financial Aid Opportunities for Military Personnel

Financing one’s education has long proven to be one of the most tumultuous processes related to getting a college degree. Even for those seeking to go to a military academy will see that there are financial obstacles that must be overcome. Thankfully, there are many financial aid opportunities for military personnel in the United States. Foundations and programs offer scholarships for army aviation, Marine Corps, the navy, and more. Options exist both veterans and current military personnel. It’s important to remember how useful the G.I. Bill can be and how to best approach stretching dollars, especially when getting through school. Below, we outline a list of a few financial aid opportunities for military personnel—there are many others out there though, so don’t limit your search to just these options.

  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs Education Benefits: This U.S. government department has educational benefits for veterans and their dependents. There are different amounts of scholarship benefits depending on the veterans past position with the army. Most veteran’s education benefits are treated as resources, not income. Therefore veterans should not report their veterans education benefits as income on the FAFSA.
  • Military Officers Association of America (MOAA): This organization offers several educational assistance programs in form of loans, scholarships, and grants, including interest free loans and the American Patriot Scholarship. The website includes a scholarship finder to find the perfect financial aid for your needs.
  • The Army Scholarship Fund: This is a charitable, non-profit organization that provides college scholarships for undergraduate study to children of current and former members of the U.S. Army, and to spouses of currently serving soldiers. The amount of each award ranges from $500 to $2000 for undergraduate studies at accredited educational or technical institutions.
  • The Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States: The AMCSUS is a group of schools that provide a quality education in a military environment. They tend to emphasize strong values, leadership development, citizenship, and service to others. Many programs through AMCSUS have scholarships and grants for prospective students.
  • Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation: This is the United State’s oldest and largest need-based scholarship organization. Their scholarships support U.S. military families and personnel. According to their website, “Since 1962, the Foundation has provided over 26,000 scholarships valued at more than $65 million, including nearly $5,000,000 to more than 1,600 students for the 2011-2012 academic year.”

Applying for Aid

In addition to scholarships and grants for military personnel, you should also complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. This is one of the most important applications for individuals attending college. Based on the financial status of the applicant and their parents, many will be entitled to certain financial benefits that can open more options. Additionally, even if you don’t qualify for any grants, almost every student qualifies for Stafford Loans, some of which even include subsidized interest rates, so can prove beneficial for individuals of all backgrounds. A FAFSA helps determine your eligibility for all types of aid, from grants to work-study. You might be surprised what you qualify for.

Filling out a FAFSA takes time so make sure you have all the required information and documents needed to complete your online application. The time spent filling out the application though can prove to be some of the most worthwhile in preparation for attending college, as it’s often very lucrative. You might need to supply additional information regarding your military background, but usually isn’t anything too strenuous. According to their website, you’ll need the following materials to complete your application:

  • Your Social Security card. It is important that you enter your Social Security Number correctly!
  • Your driver’s license (if any)
  • Your 2012 W-2 forms and other records of money earned
  • Your (and if married, your spouse’s) 2013 Federal Income Tax Return
  • IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040 EZ
  • Foreign Tax Return, or
  • Tax Return for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federal States of Micronesia, or Palau
  • Your Parents’ 2013 Federal Income Tax Return (if you are a dependent student)
  • Your 2013 untaxed income records
  • Your current bank statements
  • Your current business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, stock, bond and other investment records
  • Your alien registration or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen)

By filling out your application online, you can save application and return to it later if you don’t have all the information. This allows you to get started right away. Save your progress as you go and you can break filling it out into manageable chunks to come back to continuously. Time is of the essence when it comes to financial aid, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful. Remain diligent and be sure to complete it on time. Filling out your FAFSA late can disqualify you from certain aid sources such as scholarships and grants.

Choosing the Right School

The bottom line when it comes to choosing the right school is finding the intersection between a a place you’re passionate to be attending, along with affordability and quality. These three qualities help best balance out what students will need to make the most informed choices about college. While it’s important to remember affordability and quality, if it’s ultimately somewhere you don’t want to be, it will be hard to find the motivation to get through college. By trying to understand what you’re most passionate about, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision regarding how to succeed. Military colleges offer a great avenue for students to go down when they’re passionate about wanting a career in the military. Make sure the school you choose offers the classes and support you need to move forward with your career—at the right price.

Many schools offer current servicemembers or veterans different benefits like reduced tuition and other perks that help alleviate the cost of an advanced education. If you’re not sure if the school of your choice offers such benefits, consult an admissions advisor to learn more. The schools listed below are accredited degree programs that offer a variety of benefits to veterans and active servicemembers. You can request more information from each school to help you decide what college or university offers what you need.