If you are a current or former member of the military, your child may be eligible for grants and scholarships to their local universities. These grants range from the federal to the local level, offer payment in the form of cash or credit hours, and can help students pay off their tuition bills well before they graduate. There are dozens of grants to choose from as your child starts applying for college, so researching your best options — and prioritizing the scholarships you want the most — is critical. Here are a few places to start researching grants for students of military families.
Transfer Benefits From Your GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps service members receive additional education that can help them advance their military careers or prepare them to enter the civilian workforce. While it is meant specifically for active-duty members, the credit of the GI Bill can be transferred to family members. This includes your spouse, children, or a combination of both.
There are set limitations to determine who is eligible to transfer GI Bill credits, and most of these restrictions center on time served in the armed forces already and the amount of time you plan to serve in the future. Furthermore, each family member to use the credits must apply for a certificate of eligibility through the VA once the transfer is approved. The good news is that there is no limit to the total number of credits that can be transferred. Service members can transfer the full 36 credits to a spouse or child or split the remaining unused credits with a significant other.
Apply for Scholarships From the Armed Forces Themselves
Each of the armed forces offers scholarships for children of parents who served their country. The goal of these scholarships is to help students who experienced the stress of growing up with a parent who was active in the military. From moving around to multiple bases to worrying about parents serving in the Middle East, children of military parents often have to grow up faster and take on more responsibilities than their parents would like. Each of the armed forces have scholarships to reward students for their dedication, along with their parents.
Each scholarship varies by military branch. The Air Force Society awards $2,000 grants for students, while the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation divides more than $6 million among eligible students depending on need. Each organization has specific regulations for the student’s age, GPA, and monetary requirements. Most applicants will have to complete the FAFSA® to determine their benefits.
State-Level Scholarships Provide Opportunities for Students
After researching federal scholarships and branch-specific grants, the next step is to identify state-specific opportunities for student funding. Many state governments offer scholarships for children of active-duty members, veterans, or parents who were killed in combat. A few of these scholarships include:
- The Iowa War Orphans Scholarship for students whose parents were killed in combat
- The Montana Department of Military Affairs grants for children of POW/MIA parents
- The Texas Hazlewood Act funds for students of parents who were killed in combat
Each of these grants come with their own limitations. Some are rejected if the student receives any other federal military funding, while others limit their use to public state schools and colleges. Furthermore, some provide cash for students while others cover credit hours.
Research Dependents Education Assistance Program
Along with the GI Bill, the Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) Program offers 45 months of educational benefits for the children of certain veterans. This might come in the form of a technical school, certification, or apprenticeship. There are more limits to this type of funding, and it might not be approved for traditional two-year and four-year colleges.
The DEA Program also limits funding for the types of veterans whose children can apply. The grant is made to support children of permanently disabled veterans, deceased veterans, or soldiers who are currently MIA. These soldiers are unable to support their families through their military income or through civilian work, so the military provides education credits to help children further their job prospects.
Before your child applies for any of these grants, make sure they understand the limits of each option. If they accept a smaller grant from one organization, they may be disqualified from receiving a larger grant (or multiple grants) that could make paying for college easier. However, fully knowing their options can help them get the most grant funding possible to cover their education and help them graduate debt-free.