Serving Smart: Financial Aid Basics

Paying for college. Getty Images
Paying for college. Getty Images

The harsh reality behind education is that it costs money and under normal circumstances, you can't attend college or a career/tech school without paying for it. There are many reasons people choose not to advance their education, but the most common excuse is, “I can't afford it. ”

To really hit home the realities of college tuition costs, here are some statistics. Who doesn't love stats???

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees is $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

That doesn't include books, supplies and a cupboard full of Top Ramen.

Thankfully, for those currently serving on active duty, National Guard or Selective Reserve there are options available to temper the rising costs of education. I'm not talking about the well-known GI Bill and Tuition Assistance programs. Although, we will take an in-depth look at those benefits later. I'm talking about Federal Student Aid, a.k.a FAFSA.

Many service members believe they're not eligible for Federal Financial aid. This is not true!  For those serving on active duty, National Guard Reserve or Selective Reserve you may be eligible to receive federal aid. However, every branch of service has its own policies. So you need to check with your respective service to determine your eligibility.

For more details see our Federal Student Aid page.

To receive or to be considered for federal student aid, you need to fill out an application. The application is FREE. Go to FAFSA.GOV to fill out your application.

 Things you will/may need to complete your application:

  • Social Security Number (Student or Parent)
  • Your driver's license number (not mandatory)
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a citizen
  • Federal tax information including IRS Tax Return Transcripts, W-2 information (for your spouse if married, and for your parents if you are providing parent information)
  • Information on investments, savings, and business and farm assets for yourself (and for your parents if you are providing parent information)
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