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Uncle Sam Helps Pay for School

National Science Foundation building, Arlington, VA (Photo: NSF)
National Science Foundation building, Arlington, VA (Photo: NSF)

Making a difference through public service can make a difference to your pocketbook, too. The federal government offers scores of financial aid opportunities for veterans interested in government careers. In return, some require commitments to serve in a federal job after graduation. So, you get money to help pay for your education and a leg up on a good job after graduation -- not a bad deal.

There are literally hundreds of scholarships available, but here are a few to give you an idea of what's out there:

Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service

If you're interested in computers -- specifically in protecting national security secrets kept on computers -- this could be a good fit. This National Science Foundation scholarship program gives certain colleges and universities money to attract students in the "information assurance" field. It covers tuition, room and board, and books for up to two years of undergraduate or graduate-level study. There's also a stipend of $8,000 per year for undergrads and $12,000 per year for graduate students.

In return, students become part of the Federal Cyber Service of informational technology specialists responsible for protecting the government's information infrastructure. Upon graduation after their two-year scholarships, the recipients will be required to work for a federal agency for two years to fulfill their Federal Cyber Service commitments.

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Program

If you see a bright future in public service clouded by looming educational debt, try looking into the Truman Scholarship program. It is a $30,000 merit-based grant awarded to college students in the upper quarter of their junior class who require financial aid to attend graduate or professional school in preparation for careers in government or the nonprofit sector. These prestigious grants are awarded by the Truman Scholarship Foundation to honor the nation's 33rd president and increase opportunities for young Americans to prepare for and pursue careers in public service.

National Security Education Program

In the interest of national security, the government will actually pay you to travel to interesting countries, learn foreign languages and study new cultures. All you have to do in return is promise that upon graduation you will look for a job in a national security-related federal agency.

That doesn't mean this program is geared only toward students interested in military-related work. It is based on the belief that national security is affected by such factors as world hunger, poverty, sustainable development and environmental degradation. Jobs in agencies as diverse as the International Trade Administration and the Office of International Energy Policy fulfill the requirement, as do virtually any jobs in federal law enforcement and the Department of Defense.

Healthcare Scholarships

A number of financial aid opportunities exist for students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare. Here are just a few:

The Undergraduate Scholarship Program for Individuals from Disadvantaged Backgrounds offers scholarships to study subjects that prepare students for professions needed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In return, students must work at the NIH full-time for 10 weeks every year while in school and, after graduation, for at least a year for every year of the scholarship.

The Health Professions Scholarship Program offers grants to American Indians and Alaska natives to study dentistry, public health, nutrition, optometry, pharmacology, nursing or healthcare administration. Scholarship recipients must serve in the Indian Health Service for at least two years.

The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program offers full-time medical students up to four years of tuition, paid education-related fees and expenses, and a monthly stipend. Recipients must promise to serve in an area identified as a health professional shortage area.

These financial aid programs are just a few options when it comes to making your public service career a money-saving enterprise. A great place to learn more about these and other opportunities is fedMoney.org, a comprehensive and free listing of U.S. government programs benefiting students.

For information about other scholarships or using your Military benefits to pay for your education, visit www.military.com/education

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