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Higher Education for Your Children – The Essentials
Military OneSource stands by your side with information and resources so you can support your child’s education. Military families have several options when it comes to financing your youth’s college or trade school education, including scholarships, Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits, education grants, loans and college savings programs. Your children’s goals are as important as your own, and Military OneSource has your back as you plan for this milestone.
Here are several ways to make college or trade school education possible for your youth:
Start saving early
Regardless of your child’s age, start saving now. It may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways to put some money away now that will pay dividends to your child’s college education down the line. Many savings plans are available, including 529 Plans, which allow your savings to grow tax-free. Read about ways to stay fiscally fit and plan for short- and long-term goals, such as paying for higher education.
The Office of Financial Readiness is also available to help with your financial planning. Talk to a personal financial counselor at your installation. You can also arrange to speak with an education consultant through Military OneSource.
- Financing Your Child’s College Education
- Preparing for Higher Education — The Essentials
- Financial Planning for Children: Beyond Diapers and Wipes
- Military Families, Plan Now to Reach Your Financial Goals
Scholarships for military children
Military families have access to a number of scholarship options to help offset some of the out-of-pocket college expenses. While two scholarships are designed specifically for military-connected teens from any service branch — Scholarships for Military Children Program and the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship — there are dozens of additional scholarships available to military teens through service-specific departments and other military-affiliated organizations such as Operation Homefront, National Military Family Association, Knights of Columbus and branch aid organizations like Air Force Aid Society and Army Emergency Relief.
Each scholarship has different eligibility requirements. Check carefully to find the scholarships right for your student’s educational goals, then apply, apply, apply. The wider the net you cast, the greater your chances of finding a financial partner to help pay for college. Be aware of scams in your scholarship search process. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Protect your identity and personal information as you would in other financial situations.
Contact your installation school liaison to explore the numerous scholarship opportunities available to assist military children with tuition costs, books, lab fees and other college-related expenses. School liaisons can direct military-connected youth to dozens of scholarship opportunities, in your community and beyond.
- Savings Plans, Student Loans and Scholarships for Military Teens
- College Scholarships for Military Children and How to Apply
- Need Money for Higher Education?
- Scholarships for Military Children
- Scholarship Opportunities for Surviving Family Members
- Financing a College Education Fact Sheet
Look into loans
If you’re taking out a loan, be sure to read the fine print. Colleges, universities and trade schools will offer a host of financial aid packages, so research each carefully to make sure you’re signing up for the right one. You also have the option to borrow directly from the government. Create a personal financial aid spreadsheet to compare which loans and aid your student qualifies for. A Military OneSource education consultant can also help answer your questions.
- Federal Student Loans Can Offer Several Advantages Over Private Student Loans
- Federal Student Loans for College or Career School
Apply for grants
In addition to scholarships, there are education grants which families don’t have to repay, such as Federal Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program, or FSEOG. To begin the grant process, start with the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most colleges and universities use this form to determine students’ eligibilities for aid, grants and scholarships.
Alternatives to traditional degree programs
Your student may decide a different career path might be a better fit than pursuing a traditional college degree. Many opportunities exist for additional learning and career growth, including:
- Internships and apprenticeships
- Trade and vocational schools
- Adult education and job training programs
- Comprehensive postsecondary transition programs, or CPTs
Students with special needs
Most colleges, universities and trade schools now offer in-person and distance learning options that allow for equal access to learning for students with disabilities. To find the right fit for your student seeking traditional learning, begin the search early for higher education. Visit the school virtually or in person, talk to the disability service offices on prospective campuses and reach out to current students with similar disabilities to better understand their learning and living experiences.
PACER Center, with its Transitioning to Life After High School content, provides invaluable resources for families with exceptional family members. Families can also explore vocational rehabilitation programs.
If your teen has an individualized education program, or IEP, a transition plan will be discussed before your child turns 16. This planning helps prepare your youth for postsecondary education. Your teen may also be eligible to receive additional educational support and assistance through age 21. While an IEP doesn’t extend to higher education institutions, students with 504 plans can take those plans with them to college. Contact the school’s disability services office to find out what steps need to be taken to obtain accommodations. Some colleges have better programs and services for students who have greater needs for accommodation than others.
Families with exceptional family members can explore postsecondary education with the help of their installation’s Exceptional Family Member Program. They can also find links to their state’s transition resources in the Education Directory for Children with Special Needs. Finally, they can reach out to Military OneSource by phone at 800-342-9647, set up a live chat or view overseas calling options to schedule an appointment to talk with a special needs consultant.
- EFMP & Me
- PACER Center — Champions for Children With Disabilities
- Education Directory for Children With Special Needs
Whatever your education goals or challenges may be, your local school liaison can help. School liaisons are located at each installation and are your go-to resource for all things education. They serve parents, educators and military-connected children in grades pre-K through 12. School liaisons offer a wide variety of college, career and military readiness services including:
- Standardized test preparation and scheduling assistance
- Scholarship and financial aid information
- Postsecondary, college and vocational fairs
School liaisons also host workshops to help parents with smooth school transitions, to include college preparation and planning for their children. They can also connect you to the Exceptional Family Member Program and your school’s special education department, as well as provide information about your new school district’s special education program. For more information, contact your local installation school liaison office.
If you still need help figuring out higher education options for your children, Military OneSource education consultants are available 24/7/365 to help. Call 800-342-9647, set up a live chat or view overseas calling options to schedule a free and confidential consultation.