Going to College for Free: Can You Afford not To?

Pile of money with mortarboard on top

Have you always dreamed of designing aircraft? Or do you desire a nursing certificate to back up your medical experience? Maybe you've always had your heart set on obtaining a degree that is meaningful to you.

Either way, financial aid can make a difference in obtaining your educational goal. It may mean being able to continue your education when you otherwise could not. It could also mean being able to attend the school of your choice despite deployments, hectic work schedules, and a mobile lifestyle.

In today's world, servicemembers around the globe are investing in their future and taking advantage of the many educational opportunities afforded to them.

Where the Money Is
The military encourages servicemembers to use all programs available, whether they are from federal, military-related, or private sources. There are many out there, and you'll likely find more than one to suit your educational needs.
Here are a few places to get you started.

  • TuitionAssistance (TA): A financial assistance program providing active-duty personnel 100 percent funding of tuition costs.
  • The GI Bill: Provides up to 36 months of education benefits during active duty and is payable for up to 15 years following your last release from service.
  • Federal Student Aid: Federal loans, grants, and tuition programs are available to meet a variety of financial needs and education levels. Work-study programs are also available.
  • Fastweb: Is a free scholarship search platform that connects students to scholarships and financial aid tools. Find scholarships, internships, and college information with Fastweb.

Don't forget that tax credits and deductions are available to help minimize expenses at tax time. Contact the IRS for more information.

The Application Process
Obtaining financial aid funding is not as complex as it might sound. With a bit of planning and organization, you'll be on your way. Depending upon the particular aid you're applying for, the application process and information needed may vary.
Here's an idea of what you can expect.

You are encouraged to contact your local education service office to set up an appointment with an education assistant. While waiting for a reply, you can begin exploring degree programs in the DANTES catalog for distance learning.

During the visit, financial aid opportunities to meet your needs will be discussed. Any necessary application forms will be administered, and a brief loan (or tuition assistance) counseling session will be scheduled for first-time users. Command approval will also be required before any tuition requests or enrollment of courses can be processed.

Previous college credit is important to any degree path, so applying for a military transcript (which provides recommended college credit for military occupational experience and training) is essential. Previous college credit transcripts earned at other institutions will also be requested when you reapply to a college. After approval of your financial aid (usually by an award letter, base education approval notice, etc.), you'll be on your way to enrolling in your first class.

Education pays. Don't let these educational opportunities pass you by as you plan for a brighter future.

Keep Up With Your Education Benefits 

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

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