Funding a college education can be a real challenge. Whether your parents are helping to cover the expense or you are taking on the challenge yourself, children of service members can take advantage of the many federal grants, loans, educational benefits, and scholarships available to military students.
Federal Grants and Loans
Many federal grants and loans are available to assist students in pursuing their educational goals:
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the required application from the Department of Education to determine eligibility for any form of federal financial aid. More information is available on the FAFSA website.
- Federal Pell Grant. A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Typically, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant. More information is available on the Federal Student Aid website.
- Direct Stafford Loans. Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school. More information is available on the Federal Student Aid website.
- PLUS Loans. Parents of dependent students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help pay their child's education expenses as long as certain eligibility requirements are met. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS Loans for their own expenses. More information is available on the Federal Student Aid website.
- Federal Perkins Loans. A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. More information is available on the Federal Student Aid website.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program. The FSEOG Program provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the costs of postsecondary education. Priority is given to those who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients. More information is available on the FSEOG website.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. This grant is intended for students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. This program is for students who do not qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. More information is available on the Federal Student Aid website.
Military friendly schools
There are numerous colleges and universities that are invested in helping military students obtain their college degrees. Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) provides educational opportunities to service members and their families who have trouble completing college degrees due to frequent relocations. The SOC website provides helpful information on the consortium of over 1,800 colleges worldwide that provide educational opportunities for members of the military community. More information is available on the SOC website.
Financing a college education can be an intimidating task. However, there are many scholarship opportunities available for children of service members:
- Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA). DeCA has established a program offering a scholarship at every commissary where eligible students have applied. More information is available on the Scholarships for Military Children Program website.
- Army Emergency Relief (AER). AER offers spouses and dependent children of Soldiers scholarships and grants to assist them in paying for their educations. More information is available on the AER website.
- Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (MCSF). The MCSF offers scholarships to children of active, deceased, or honorably discharged Marines. More information is available on the MCSF website.
- Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS). The NMCRS education programs assist eligible Sailors, Marines, and family members pursue their academic goals by providing a source of education financing through scholarships and no-interest loan programs. More information is available on the NMCRS website.
- Naval SEAL Foundation. The Navy Seal Foundation awards educational grants for the men and women of the Naval Special Warfare, their spouses, and their children. More information is available on the Navy SEAL Foundation website.
- Air Force Aid Society (AFAS). AFAS education programs assist eligible family members in pursuing their academic goals by providing a source of education financing through tuition assistance and grant programs. More information is available on the AFAS website.
- Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA). CGMA offers eligible spouses and children a variety of loans and grants to help Coast Guard family members achieve their educational goals. More information is available on the CGMA website.
- Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarships. ROTC scholarships are awarded based on a student's merit and grades, not financial need. More information is available at Army ROTC, 1-800-USA-ROTC; Marine Corps ROTC, 1-800-MARINES; Navy ROTC, 1-800-USA-NAVY; Air Force ROTC, 1-800-423-7682.
- American Legacy Scholarships. The American Legacy Scholarship Fund offers scholarships to children of military members who have died while on active duty since September 11, 2001. More information is available on the American Legion Scholarships website.
- OurMilitary.mil. OurMilitary.mil provides links to dozens of scholarships specifically for military children. More information is available on the OurMilitary.mil website.
- Reserve Officer's Association (ROA). The Henry J. Reilly Memorial Scholarship Program is designed to assist deserving members of ROA, ROA League (ROAL), their children, or grandchildren who wish to attend or who are now attending accredited United States colleges or universities. More information is available on the ROA website.
- ThanksUSA Scholarship Program. ThanksUSA offers over 1,000 scholarships for military spouses and children totaling over $3.5 million. More information is available on the ThanksUSA website.