Explore your funding options before heading back to school

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Explore your funding options before heading back to school

by: Stars and Stripes | .
Special Publications | .
published: July 05, 2013

One of the primary benefits of military service is financial assistance to pay for a higher education or technical training. This benefit can have some lifelong implications to those who seek a college education. Without guidance, you may spend years and benefit dollars on a degree or training program that doesn’t provide a satisfying career path.

Below are a few of the benefits available to servicemembers who are seeking higher education or technical training. During the VA Benefits Briefing you will learn more about eligibility and how to apply for these, but it is important that you begin thinking about your options now. You can, and should, apply for education benefits before you enroll in school. You can even apply before you have chosen your school or major. VA will provide you with a Certificate of Eligibility, which will detail your Benefit Level, months of Entitlement and the end date of your Eligibility Period. This will minimize the amount of time required for you to begin receiving benefits once you enroll in school.

The post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with:

  • At least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001 - or - individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.

Approved training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes:

  • Graduate and undergraduate degrees
  • Vocational/technical training
  • On-the-job training
  • Flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Licensing and national testing programs
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Tutorial assistance

The Post- 9/11 GI Bill will pay eligible individuals:

  • Your full tuition and fees directly to the school for all public school in-state students. For those attending private or foreign schools, tuition and fees are capped per academic year.
  • A monthly housing allowance for those attending classes at the greater than 1⁄2 time rate.
  • An annual books and supplies stipend is paid proportionately based on enrollment.

Yellow Ribbon Program
Only veterans entitled to the maximum benefit rate (based on service requirements) or their designated transferees may receive this funding. Active duty servicemembers and their spouses are not eligible for this program (child transferees of active duty servicemembers may be eligible if the servicemember is qualified at the 100% rate).

Therefore, you may be eligible if:

  • You served an aggregate period of active duty after September 10, 2001, of at least 36 months.
  • You were honorably discharged from active duty for a service connected disability and you served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001.
  • You are a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on a veteran’s service under the eligibility criteria listed above.

Find a participating school:
You must be enrolled in an approved program offered by an Institution of Higher Learning. Use the links at http://gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/yellow_ribbon_program.html to find a participating school.

The portion of tuition and fees charges considered under the Yellow Ribbon Program is based on the difference of the amount charged to the student and what has been paid by VA as educational assistance. See the information on the website for more detail.

To receive benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program:

  • You must be eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
  • You must not be on active duty or a spouse transferee of an active duty member.
  • Your school must agree to participate in the Yellow Program.

  • Your school must have not offered Yellow Ribbon to more than the maximum number of individuals stated in their participation agreement.
  • Your school must certify your enrollment to VA, including Yellow Ribbon program information.

To explore Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility criteria, visit http://www.gibill.va.gov/. To ask a question and search for answers, visit https://gibill.custhelp.com/.

CAUTION: There are many websites, lenders, and even some institutions that have deceptive practices aimed at servicemembers and veterans. Only use trusted resources, such as those sites with a .gov or .mil for GI Bill information.

Other ways to fund your higher education
During the Accessing Higher Education and Career Technical Training Tracks coursework, you will be introduced to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through this system, you will apply for federal student aid. To get help with completing your FAFSA application, visit your college’s financial aid office, go online to www.studentaid.ed.gov/completefafsa, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433- 3243).

Types of Federal student aid
Federal student aid is financial aid from the federal government to help you pay for education expenses at an eligible college, technical school, vocational school or graduate school. Students who meet basic eligibility requirements can receive financial aid regardless of age or family income. There are different categories of aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study and loans. These are available through federal, state and private sources.

There are three categories of federal student aid: grants, work-study and loans. The basic eligibility requirements along with complete Federal student aid program descriptions are included in the publication, “Funding Your Education: The Guide to Federal Student Aid.” See the current edition at: http://studentaid.ed.gov.

Federal grants
A grant is not a loan; it does not have to be repaid. A grant is student aid money that is given towards your tuition and related expenses.

Federal Pell Grant
The Federal Pell Grant (Pell Grant) is a grant awarded to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. (In some cases, a student enrolled in a post- baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.) Pell Grants are considered the foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other Federal and nonfederal sources is added.

The Pell Grant maximum award is set annually. Federal law establishes the maximum number of years you may receive a Pell Grant. Your school must tell you in writing how much your award will be and how and when you’ll be paid. Your school can apply Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly (by check) or combine these methods. Schools must disburse funds at least once per term (semester, trimester or quarter). Schools that do not use semesters, trimesters or quarters must disburse funds at least twice per academic year.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program is for undergraduates with exceptional financial need. Pell Grant recipients with the lowest expected family contributions (EFCs) will be considered first for a FSEOG. Just like Pell Grants, the FSEOG does not have to be repaid. You can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on when you apply, your financial need, the funding at the school you’re attending and the policies of the financial aid office at your school.

Other grants
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) is for undergraduate, post baccalaureate or graduate students who are, or will be, taking coursework necessary to become elementary or secondary teachers. You must be enrolled at a school that participates in the TEACH Grant Program, agree to meet specific requirements and sign the TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

CAUTION: If you accept a TEACH Grant and do not meet the terms of your Agreement to Serve, the TEACH Grant becomes a LOAN that you will be required to repay in full, plus accrued interest.

Federal Perkins Loans

Low interest Federal Perkins Loans are awarded by the institution to eligible undergraduate or graduate students based on financial need. Undergraduates may receive up to $5,500 annually and graduate students may receive up to $8,000 annually.

Direct Stafford
Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible undergraduate or graduate students to help cover the cost of higher education. Eligible students borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education at participating schools.

Direct Stafford Loans include the following types of loans:
Direct Subsidized Loans — Direct Subsidized Loans are for eligible undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. Your school will review the information reported on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and determine the amount you can borrow. Undergraduate students are not charged interest while in school at least half-time and during grace periods and deferment periods.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans — Direct Unsubsidized Loans are awarded to eligible undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. Like subsidized loans, your school will determine the amount you can borrow. Interest accrues (accumulates) on an unsubsidized loan from the time it’s first paid out. You may pay the interest while you are in school and during grace periods and deferment or forbearance periods, or you may allow it to accrue and be capitalized (that is, added to the principal amount of your loan). If you choose not to pay the interest as it accrues, this will increase the total amount you have to repay because you will be charged interest on a higher principal amount.

Direct PLUS Loan (graduate and professional degree student borrowers only) Graduate and professional degree students can borrow a Direct PLUS Loan to help cover education expenses. The terms and conditions applicable to PLUS Loans conditions include:

  • A determination that you (the applicant) do not have an adverse credit history
  • A fixed interest rate of 7.9% for Direct PLUS Loans

Before you can receive a PLUS Loan, you are required to complete the Free Application for
Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and your school must determine your maximum eligibility for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans.

Direct Consolidation Loan – A Direct Consolidation Loan allows a borrower to consolidate (combine) one or more Federal student loans into one loan. This leaves you with a single monthly payment instead of multiple payments. The interest rate on a Direct Consolidation Loan is based on the weighted average of the interest rates of the loans being consolidated.

Loan repayment
You must repay your loans even if you don’t complete your education, can’t find a job related to your program of study or are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan. However, certain circumstances might lead to your loans being forgiven, canceled or discharged.

For complete information about these circumstances, please consult: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation.

For details about managing your loan repayment, see: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans.

Non-Federal grants and scholarships
Undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships are forms of aid that help students pay for their education. Unlike student loans, scholarships and fellowships do not have to be repaid. Hundreds of thousands of scholarships and fellowships from several thousand sponsors are awarded each year.

A student also might qualify for a private grant or scholarship for the following:

  • Academic achievement
  • Religious affiliation
  • Ethnic or racial heritage
  • Community activities
  • Athletic ability
  • Hobbies and special interests
  • Military/Veteran affiliations and organizations

The FAFSA website at www.studentaid.ed.gov/scholarship offers a free scholarship search based on these and other criteria.

The programs listed are just some of those that you should begin to research before you decide to make your transition into higher education or technical training. Other programs are also available to help you fund your higher education, such as state aid, scholarships through your college, university or technical school, or if you are currently employed (or plan to be employed throughout your higher education) your employer may offer tuition assistance and benefits.

— Source: The Department of Education, http://www.ed.gov/veterans-and-military-families/information

Tags: Education
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