If you’re a veteran, you can get money to help pay for college. Here are some things you should know about finding and applying for veterans benefits and various forms of financial aid.
The U.S. government offers several programs that provide vets with money to pay for school.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
If you are a veteran with an honorable discharge who provided military service for at least 90 days after Sept. 10, 2001, you are eligible to receive education benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Post-9/11 GI Bill. The amount of money you get depends on how long you served in the military.
This program provides money for college tuition, fees, housing, and books and supplies. Vets who attend in-state public colleges can receive up to the total cost of tuition and fees. Those attending private schools or out-of-state public colleges can receive up to a national maximum amount.
Vets can also get reimbursed for exams such as the SAT and the College Level Examination Program® (CLEP®), which offers exams covering introductory college-level material in 33 subjects. By passing one exam, you can earn 3 or more credits and save more than 100 hours of class time and related coursework.
To learn more about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education-benefit programs and to apply online, visit the GI Bill website. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out the VA’s Road Map for Success.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
If you attend a private college or a public college as an out-of-state student, the Post-9/11 GI Bill may not cover your tuition and fees. But if you’re eligible for 100 percent of the benefits that program offers, you may be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, certain colleges and the VA agree to contribute more funds to pay for tuition and fees. Learn more about the Yellow Ribbon Program and find out which colleges participate.
Dealing with the U.S. government and your college to receive education benefits will take some effort on your part. To start, check in with the veterans certifying official at your school to make sure your benefits have been approved. You’ll also have to check in with the VA each term to confirm you’re still attending college.
If you find that your tuition and fees are due before your school has received payment from the VA, you may be able to get help covering the gap. Some schools provide extra time to pay. Other schools offer no-interest loans to cover costs. The VA may also provide loans. Keep in close contact with your college’s veterans certifying official or veterans-affairs coordinator to make sure you’re doing all you need to do to receive benefits and pay bills on time.
You may need more funds to make ends meet. Read on to learn about several other ways to pay for college expenses, some of which are available only to vets. Check out Financial Aid Can Help You Afford College to get an overview of all forms of aid.
Grants and Loans
The federal government is the largest source of financial aid. It provides both grants (money you don’t need to repay) and loans (money you will need to repay). Federal loans generally offer much better repayment deals than private loans, which are offered by banks, for example.
To apply for federal aid, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some states and colleges use the FAFSA to award aid as well. Other colleges have students fill out different forms to apply for college aid. Check in with the financial aid office at your college to find out what’s required.
The FAFSA is also used to apply for the federal work-study program, through which students can work and earn money to pay for college costs. The VA also offers a work-study program for vets. Learn about the VA Work-Study Program.
You may be eligible for scholarships based on your military service or other criteria. Scholarships provide money you don’t need to repay. Check out these resources:
- Use Scholarship Search to find funds especially for vets and disabled vets. The more questions you answer, the more results you’ll get.
- Contact your college’s veterans-affairs office (if it has one) or financial aid office and ask about any scholarships it offers to vets.
- Go to the website of your military branch to see what scholarships are available.
- Visit VetSuccess.gov to find scholarship and guidance resources by state.
Some colleges don’t require veterans to pay certain fees after applying for a fee waiver. Check in with a financial aid officer to find out your college’s policy.