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Financing Your Child’s College Education

High school student participating in STEM event held by Army.

So, your child is ready for college — and you’re ready to support their education goals. Now you just need to figure out how to pay for it. Luckily, you’ll find lots of resources to help military families like yours to finance your child’s college, from saving plans to scholarships.

Take advantage of military family scholarships

There are numerous scholarships available to children of service members. Each varies depending on eligibility, so check carefully to find the scholarships right for your child’s educational goals, then apply, apply, apply.

  • The Defense Commissary Agency created the Scholarships for Military Children Program in recognition of the contributions of military families to the readiness of the fighting force, and to celebrate the role of the commissary in the military family community.
  • Military service relief organizations offer scholarships and no-interest loans for family members.

Transferability of GI Benefits

The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer their education benefits to immediate family members, including a spouse and/or child.

  • The recipient must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System at the time of the transfer.
  • The transfer must occur while the service member is on active duty.
  • The service member can transfer up to 36 months of their benefits.

Apply for grants

In addition to scholarships, there are plenty of education grants which families don’t have to repay. To begin the grant process, start with FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Most colleges and universities use this form to determine students’ eligibility for aid, grants and scholarships. Here are some of the grants available:

A Better FAFSA® Form

Visit the Federal Student Aid website to see important updates that expand aid eligibility for Pell Grants and streamline the FAFSA® application process.

  • The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is for students whose parents died as a result of military service in either Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.
  • The FSEOG, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program, provides need-based grants for low-income undergraduate students.
  • Federal Pell Grants are for undergraduate students without an existing degree.

Compare your financial aid and loan options

If you’re taking out a loan, be sure to read the fine print. Each college or university will offer a host of financial aid packages, so research each carefully to make sure you’re signing onto the right one. These options also allow you to borrow directly from the government.

  • Use the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Know Before You Owe” tool to create a personal financial aid spreadsheet to compare which loans and aid your student qualifies for.
  • Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest and available to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • PLUS Loans are also available for both undergraduate and graduate students.

How to start saving now

You’re already well equipped to start saving for your child’s college education and have the discipline to commit to it. 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.

  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts let families save up to $2,000 for college, and other members of the family, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, can also contribute here.
  • State-run Qualified Tuition Programs, or 529 Plans, allow families to lock in today’s tuition rates for state schools. These accounts also grow generally tax-free and offer a variety of tax benefits.

Military OneSource education and financial consultations

Service members and military families can contact our education and financial counselors for one-on-one guidance on college savings programs and advice about choosing and affording college. Call 800-342-9647 or connect online to schedule your consultation. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

We’re here to help. Your kids’ goals are as important as your own, and Military OneSource has your back at this exciting next step for your family.

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