Higher Education for Your Children – The Essentials

Teen girl being awarded scholarship

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. There are many savings plans available, including 529 Plans, which allow your savings to grow tax-free. The Office of Financial Readiness is 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. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule an appointment with an education consultant. Appointments are available seven days a week.

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Scholarships for military children

There are numerous scholarships available to children of service members. 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. Contact your installation school liaison for scholarship opportunities in your community.

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Look into loans

If you’re taking out a loan, be sure to read the fine print. Colleges and universities 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. There are several loans available, including Direct Stafford Loans, PLUS loans and Federal Perkins Loans. A Military OneSource education consultant can also help answer your questions.

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Apply for grants

In addition to scholarships, there are plenty of education grants which families don’t have to repay, such as Federal Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities 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.

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Students with special needs

Most colleges and universities 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.

Your student may also decide a different career path might be a better fit. Many opportunities exist for additional learning and career growth, through internships and apprenticeships, adult education programs, job training programs and comprehensive postsecondary transition programs, or CPTs. PACER Center, and its Transitioning to Life After High School content, provides invaluable resources for families with exceptional family members.

If your teen has an individualized education program, or IEP, he or she can choose 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.

Families with exceptional family members can explore postsecondary education with the help of their installation’s Exceptional Family Member Program and can find links to their state’s transition resources in the Education Directory for Children with Special Needs. Parents and guardians can also reach out to Military OneSource by phone at 800-342-9647 or set up a live chat to schedule an appointment to talk with a special needs consultant. Appointments are available seven days a week.

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Higher Education Is Costly: Military Service Can Keep it Affordable

ROTC students sit and listen to a speech.

The cost of higher education and the thought of taking on student debt can be overwhelming. Perhaps you don’t think college is right for you now and want to wait. The military has options to make education affordable – whenever you choose to attend. In addition to the unique training and skills you gain as a service member, the military offers several ways to ease the cost of college. Learn more about tuition assistance, credentialing assistance, scholarships and other education benefits.

Committing to military service while in school: ROTC and military institutions

ROTC scholarships: Each service branch offers Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at various universities and academic institutions across the nation. Through ROTC, you will learn leadership and special skills while participating in the military and academic experiences. The ROTC program has several options, whether you’re straight out of high school, already attending a school or prior enlisted. There is a service commitment after graduation. Learn more:

Military Service Academies: Each branch of the military has a four-year university that offers full scholarships to its students. While in a service academy, you will be held to high academic and physical fitness standards. The application process is lengthy and extremely competitive. Applicants must be between 17 and 22 and unmarried with no children. After graduation, cadets and midshipmen serve as commissioned officers in the military. Get more information:

Tuition assistance and other education options while serving

College Loan Repayment Program: Various benefits are available to those who join the military after graduating from college. Qualified candidates could fast-track to officer training and apply for the College Loan Repayment Program and more. The military could pay off a portion or all your loans in exchange for a service commitment. This offer is not always available and is contingent on several factors such as your military job and your loan amount. Keep in mind that not every service branch offers this program. A local recruiter can provide specific details.

Education assistance is available.

Learn which of these various options can help you best reach your education goals in the military.

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Tuition assistance: As an active-duty service member, you may be able to attend school part time. Each service branch offers tuition assistance of up to $250 per semester hour for academic classes. Tuition assistance can be used for undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as several other programs.

Tuition assistance may not cover the full cost of college, but the Top-Up Program allows you to use GI bill funding to cover the rest. Talk to your education counselor for more information.

GI Bills: The Department of Veterans Affairs offers several programs to help veterans and active-duty service members pay for education. The GI bills are two of the most well-known programs. See the next section for details on the GI bills.

National Guard/reserves: Joining the National Guard or reserves allows you to serve in the military part time and receive education benefits.

Credential program: Earning credentials can help you develop as a service member and prepare you for civilian employment after separation or retirement. The Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program can help pay for education or training that leads to certification or license. It may also cover the exam fees of a credential.

Education options after military service

Post-9/11 GI Bill: This is available to those who serve at least 90 days of active-duty service after Sept. 10, 2001 and receive an honorable discharge. The benefit covers up to 100% of tuition and fees, a yearly stipend for books and a monthly housing allowance. As a bonus, if you’re a veteran at the 100% benefit level, you may also be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program, available at military-friendly institutions, pays any tuition or fees not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You may be eligible for full housing allowance during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Montgomery GI Bill: This education benefit requires you to have served at least two years on active duty and have a high school diploma or GED. Unlike the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill covers tuition and fees only, and you have up to 10 years after discharge to use the benefit.

If you’re already serving or recently transitioned, Military OneSource offers a free specialty consultation to help you reach your education goals, whatever they may be. Call 800-342-9647 for 24/7 help.

The cost of higher education and the thought of taking on student debt can be overwhelming at times. Perhaps you don’t think college is right for you now and want to wait. Whatever the case may be, the military has options to make college affordable – whenever you choose to attend.