The average out-of-state college student pays more than $25,000 for a bachelor's degree at a public university. The cost is even more for a private, nonprofit school.
While scholarships and discounts are available to the entire student body, military-connected students can access specific ones. Military students can reduce out-of-pocket expenses between educational benefits and specific programs through individual colleges. Here are some ways to maximize your military benefits to make college affordable.
Learn About Your Education Benefits
First, make sure you have exhausted all the benefits available to you as a military-connected student. If you're on active duty, make sure to use all of the Tuition Assistance, or TA, available before paying out of pocket. TA pays up to $250 per credit and a maximum of $4,500 per fiscal year.
If you're not on active duty, you may want to use your Post 9/11 GI Bill, which offers up to 36 months of tuition, school fees, books, supplies and housing. It can also be transferred to dependents. The Yellow Ribbon Program, Veteran Readiness and Employment and other benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs can also help reduce the cost of college tuition.
Read More: Post-9/11 GI Bill Overview
Look for Discounts and Scholarships
Many colleges and universities offer discounted tuition for military students. Additionally, a college may waive out-of-state tuition for service members and their dependents longer than the required three-year period, and some extend it to dependents.
Scholarships are another way to pay for college without incurring student debt. Many veteran and military-connected organizations offer scholarships, and many schools will also offer them. When looking and applying for scholarships, make sure you meet all the qualifications and that you complete the application on time. View this quick list of scholarships open to military students.
Read More: Military Tuition Assistance
Use Your Transfer Credits
Transfer credits are very valuable when looking to make college more affordable. These are credits you've already earned -- either through another academic institution or your military training. There's no need to pay to repeat these classes. They can be used as prerequisites or electives even if they aren't related to your degree field.
Colleges and universities limit how many credit hours are applied to a degree, but every one you can use helps reduce the tuition cost. When researching your academic options, make sure to find one that allows you to transfer as many credits as possible. Better yet, look for one that accepts course transfers from your military training.
Read More: Money For School
Talk to an Adviser
Sometimes, the best course of action is to ask someone. At a university that works with military students regularly, you'll find someone in admissions who understands the military and why you have credits from multiple schools.
They may also know how to help you maximize your VA benefits. Peer groups or local chapters of the Student Veterans of America can help you get connected and feel supported in your quest to make your college experience affordable.
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.