Best Online Bachelor’s in Information Systems Security Programs

As cyberattacks increase in frequency and scope, so does the demand for information systems security specialists. With a job growth rate of 18%, the field of cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing occupational sectors in the nation. If you’re an innovative thinker who loves being at the forefront of technology, a career in information systems security might be in your future! Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step to finding a job in this exciting and lucrative field.

The best online degree in information systems security is one that equips you for success in this rapidly growing and lucrative field. Whether you’re aiming for a career in digital forensics or fascinated by ethical hacking, an online information security degree program can give you the knowledge and skills most sought after by employers. Covering topics from network architecture to cryptography, core courses address concepts integral to the field of information security. Through these courses, students will develop a set of skills that can be applied to numerous aspects of information technology. Some programs also offer concentrated learning tracks for those interested in one of information security’s many subfields.

The online format is ideal for information technology coursework, offering hands-on experience in security application development, modeling, and other concepts, through virtual labs and interactive exercises. Many programs culminate in a capstone course that allows students to demonstrate their acquired skills and knowledge.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Excelsior College 74.43 3/5 40% Albany, NY

Founded in 1971, Albany, New York's Excelsior College serves working adult learners -- its programming is tailored to meet the needs of working adults and 75% of its students are employed full-time. With the ever-increasing need for information assurance in today's digital world, Excelsior offers an online BS in information technology (IT) with an information security concentration. Students learn to apply best practices in IT, execute project plans, and solve IT and security issues. Courses are taught asynchronously and range in topics from operating systems to human-computer interaction. Excelsior is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

This 120-credit program requires 60 credits in arts and sciences, 48 in technology, and 12 in free electives. Credit is available for completed IT corporate training courses and for a portfolio assessment program. Students have access to scholarships and financial aid, along with discounts for veterans and active military and their families. Payment plans, including monthly payments, are another option to assist students with managing tuition costs.

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2 University of Illinois at Springfield 72.95 3/5 47% Springfield, IL

Students seeking careers in system analysis, information systems security, or network administration are well-prepared for their field after completing the University of Illinois at Springfield's online BS in information systems security program. The program's curriculum is certified by the Committee on National Security Systems and the National Security Agency, and its Computer Science Department is a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Student outcomes include the ability to design and implement secure computer systems, conduct security assessments, and understand and adhere to computer security ethics. Topics studied include intrusion detection and systems programming languages, and the course features a capstone requirement.

Applicants -- including transfer students -- must complete a statement of purpose form, and must have completed the equivalent of two semesters of Java programming and one semester of calculus, discrete or finite mathematics, and statistics. If students plan to continue on to graduate school or begin a career in a scientific field, the university recommends taking an additional semester of calculus.

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3 Charter Oak State College 70.34 2/5 40% New Britain, CT

New Britain, Connecticut is home to Charter Oak State College. The school offers a wide variety of online degree programs and Charter Oak describes itself as "Connecticut's public online college." One of these programs is an online BS in cybersecurity for students with computer backgrounds seeking careers in information assurance. Coursework covers risk management, network architectures, digital forensics, and cyber policies. Electives are unique, with courses such as security strategies for web applications and social networking. This 120 credit program accepts applications throughout the year. Charter Oak offers a prior learning assessment, which provides degree credits for portfolios, training, exams, professional licenses, and credentials. For example, students receive credit hours for holding a Certified Information Systems Security Professional designation.

Payment plans and financial aid are available. Charter Oak is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and by the CT Board of Governors for Higher Education.

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4 Western Governors University 68.30 3/5 27% Salt Lake City, UT

Western Governors University is the first university in the U.S. to employ competency standards allowing students to use existing skills to earn credits. An information assurance degree online is available through WGU, which delivers the latest security management skills and provides students with the opportunity to earn eight industry certifications (including Cisco Certified Network Associate). The school's BS in information technology with a security concentration is asynchronous and takes an average of two to three years to complete. Some of its subject areas are network and security, scripting and programming, and the business of IT.

WGU's program includes 123 competency units and 12 to 13 of these may be reasonably fulfilled each six-month term. Credits for associate degrees, undergraduate courses, and IT certifications can be transferred. Grades are assigned as pass or not pass (pass is equivalent to a "B" or better). Applicants must hold an associate degree in IT, transferable IT certifications (within the last five years), and three years IT work experience. Remarkably, tuition at WGU hasn't increased since 2008.

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5 Drexel University 66.93 5/5 65% Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and its academic programs include an information assurance degree online. Designed for individuals already working in the IT field or those with an associate degree or equivalent coursework, the BS in computing and security technology - computing security concentration is asynchronous. Completion of this program often advances careers and salaries, and coursework prepares learners for additional certifications.

Students with existing IT certifications -- including A+, Oracle 9i DBA, Windows 2008+, and Cisco Certified Network Associate -- can receive transferrable credits. Grades of "C" or higher may also be transferred, up to 113 quarter credits (one semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits at DU, with four 10-week quarters per year). This program requires 188 credits, and costs $489 per credit, a 40% discount for new online students. Special rates are available for DU alumni, military, and partner organizations. Online students are eligible for financial aid. Degree applicants must have a minimum of 24 previous college credits less than 10 years old and an overall minimum GPA of 2.5.

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6 University of Maryland-University College 66.36 3/5 4% Adelphi, MD

The University of Maryland - University College offers an online BS in information systems management designed for individuals seeking management positions. These information assurance positions can range from information systems supervisor, systems analyst, or functional liaison, to information assurance manager or IT project manager. The program instructs students in best practices for protecting the critical information of organizations, integrating security and risk management methods, and securing information systems. It also helps prepare students for certification exams such as certified associate in project management, project management professional, and PMI agile certified practitioner. Program faculty includes a chief information officer, the owner of a successful private company in the industry, and a head of systems engineering.

This 120-credit degree is available asynchronously online or in a hybrid format. Maryland residents pay $284 per credit, while out-of-state residents pay $499 per credit. Up to 90 credits may be transferred, significantly reducing the cost of the degree. Interest-free, monthly payment plans are available, as are financial aid, scholarships, and military and veteran benefits.

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7 Bellevue University 65.00 3/5 31% Bellevue, NE

Nebraska's Bellevue University offers an excellent internet security degree, its online BS in cybersecurity. Students learn technical theories and their applications in a variety of cyber security environments. The program is asynchronous and designed with consistent interaction between online student peers and faculty, and students select between a traditional online format and a cohort model. Courses focus on topics such as operating systems, mobile device security, and operational security. This 127-credit program includes 36 major, 46 electives, and 36 general education credits. All students must complete three courses in the school's unique Kirkpatrick Signature Series. Learners also enjoy access to the Bellevue Writing Center, tutoring, and Study Skills Center.

Classes start throughout the year and, in turn, applications are continuously accepted. Bellevue is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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8 Champlain College 64.89 5/5 64% Burlington, VT

Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont was founded in 1878 and started offering online degree programs in the mid-1990s. Its online BS in cybersecurity is an experiential learning program offering simulations through a virtual laboratory. Unlike many of its peers, this program focuses on problem-solving rather than student testing. Learners can also earn a certificate prior to graduation, which may be in subjects such as computer forensics and digital investigations, computer networking, cybersecurity, Linux administration, or system administration.

This asynchronous internet security degree requires 120 credits, and up to 90 may be transferred. Credit for professional experience and training is available. This program costs $641 per credit hour, and courses are typically seven weeks long (some are 15 weeks). A minimum overall GPA of 2.5 is required for admission. The school requires no application fee and provides students with six start dates per year. Champlain is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and is designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The school is also recognized as a DC3 National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

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9 Kennesaw State University 64.09 3/5 42% Kennesaw, GA

Kennesaw State University's information assurance degree online is administered by the Cole College of Business. This BBA degree -- a bachelor of business administration in information security and assurance -- requires business electives (such as finance and marketing), general education credits, and information security courses. Courses focus on topics including server systems security to perimeter defense, and aim to provide students with real-world experience to analyze and secure information systems.

Online and on-site courses employ the same faculty. Online courses are reviewed every three years to keep content current. Some online courses require synchronous sessions, which are generally held during evenings, and KSU charges an e-tuition rate by the credit hour. Grants and scholarships are available, and online students enjoy priority registration. KSU is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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10 Saint Leo University 62.50 3/5 43% Saint Leo, FL

Saint Leo, Florida is home to Saint Leo University. Founded in 1889 as the first Catholic college in the state, today the school's online study body consists of nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Saint Leo's BS in computer science with an information assurance specialization provides students with skills such as computer forensics; internet, intranet, and network security; and penetration testing.

This information assurance degree online is administered asynchronously, and students can join online clubs and organizations like the school's Computing Club and Computer Gamers Club. Peer mentoring, an assigned student advisor, and free tutoring are also provided. There are six eight-week terms per year, and the school employs a rolling admissions system. High achieving students may be invited to the Saint Leo's Omnicron Chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, an international honor society for computing and information systems scholars.

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11 Dakota State University 61.25 3/5 42% Madison, SD

Located in Madison, Dakota State University's BS in network and security administration is available fully online. Some courses are taught synchronously, however. Collaboration between online and on-campus students is encouraged with the assignment of shared projects. Classes are small, and typically number under 25 participants. Students within this network security program learn skills and best practices within networking, cyber security, virtualization, and forensics. A virtual laboratory allows students to practice defensive hacking and network forensics.

The program requires 120 credit hours and DSU uses a "self-support rate," so students pay by the hour rather than a flat semester rate. The program also requires a few administrative fees. Financial aid and scholarships are available to online students registered for a minimum of six credit hours. DSU uses the Desire2Learn online learning platform and offers spring, summer, and fall start dates.

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12 Wilmington University 57.16 3/5 34% New Castle, DE

Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware offers 90 fully online degrees, concentrations, and certifications. Courses within its online BS in computer and network security are delivered in semester (15 weeks) or block (seven weeks) format. The program includes general education requirements, a support core, and security core. If students earn lower than a "C-" in a required course, it must be retaken. This network security program instructs students on the ethical standards of data, best practices and methods, and the application of technical knowledge. It provides credentials in digital information security and qualifies students for these certifications: Certified Information System Auditor, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Security+, and CompTIA Network+.

Students have the option to complete six credit hours as part of a co-op assignment. The school allows learners to transfer up to 90 credits and credit for prior learning is available. WilmU is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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13 Lewis University 56.82 3/5 59% Romeoville, IL

A Catholic institution located in Romeoville, Illinois, Lewis University offers its students an online BS in information security and risk management. This accelerated, asynchronous information systems security program imparts management theory and technical knowledge to students in the areas of ethical hacking, computer forensics, IT operations, and security incidents. It prepares students for industry certifications such as security+, certified information systems security professional, certified ethical hacker, certified information systems auditor, certified information security manager, and access data certified forensics examiner. Students enjoy 24/7 online access to Lewis's CloudLab, where learners use virtual machines to experiment with database management, hacking, forensics, programming, and more.

Students can choose to pursue a fast-track master's in information security by adding 26 credit hours to their program (which also increases their studies by approximately 18 months). Lewis is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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14 Davenport University 56.70 3/5 40% Grand Rapids, MI

In 1866, Davenport University was established as a business school in Grand Rapids, Michigan by a former Union Army officer. Today, the school offers 50 degrees fully online, and online students comprise 42% of DU's student body. DU offers an online BS in cyber defense degree program to teach students how to protect data from threats, prevent hacking, and secure cyber networks and activity. Students can choose to add a healthcare information and assurance or information assurance specialty to their internet security degree. A math modeling program may also be combined with a selected specialty. This 120 credit program includes 45 major credits, and courses focus on topics including Perl/Python scripting, the Unix operating system, and Windows digital forensics. Course credit for some professional certifications is available, along with financial aid and scholarships.

DU is one of 13 schools in the United States designated as a National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the Defense Cyber Crime Center Academic Cyber Curriculum Alliance. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security also recognize DU as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

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15 Mercy College 54.20 3/5 34% Dobbs Ferry, NY

Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York is a Christian college that offers learners around 40 internet-based programs, including its information assurance degree online. The school's BS in cybersecurity is part of the college's School of Liberal Arts and requires the completion of 120 credits. These include 60 credits in general education, 48 in the cybersecurity core, and 12 in electives. The program includes courses on topics such as penetration testing and ethical hacking, forensic and electronic discovery, and cryptography and computer security. Students who have completed the program are equipped to identify risks; design, develop, and implement secure systems; and understand information encryption and decryption.

A dual degree program with a BS and MS is also available, and takes five years to complete (the BS alone generally requires four years). Students may transfer up to 90 credits. Mercy's online students enjoy access to financial aid, an online learning center, advising, and career services.

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Every online information security degree program is different, but many allow students to develop specializations in the field through program concentrations. While available concentrations can vary widely between schools, some are more commonly offered than others. You may encounter the following tracks while researching online degree in information systems security programs:

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY

Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Computer Forensics Students on a computer forensics track develop competence in investigative procedures and digital evidence collection, as well as laws and practices associated with court-admissible evidence. Techniques studied may include live and cross-drive analysis, file carving, and steganography. Some programs offer additional certification along with a bachelor’s degree. Computer forensic investigator
Information Assurance Coursework for this concentration emphasizes the role of strategic risk management in information systems security. While learning to assess programs and networks for security problems, students develop a broad foundation in the five pillars of information assurance: integrity, availability, authentication, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation. Information security analyst, Computer systems administrator
Network Management A network management concentration offers even more broadly applicable skills to an online network security degree curriculum. In addition to cryptography and other topics in cybersecurity, this track addresses basic concepts in network architecture, LAN technology, and C programming. Some careers associated with this concentration require further certification. Network administrator, IT director, and Tech support specialist

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY

Just like concentrations, every school has different requirements for earning an online information security degree. Curricula can vary widely, depending on the pace, duration, and focus of a program. Some topics, however, are integral to any online network security degree curriculum. Most programs typically offer some form of the following courses:

  • Computer forensics: This course offers a broad overview of the methods and tools used to investigate computer-related crimes. Students learn how to obtain digital evidence for use in court as they perform basic investigations on numerous operating systems. Coursework emphasizes the importance of good practice guidelines in collecting court-admissible information.
  • Information and security planning: Addressing crucial topics such as network security, encryption, and acceptable use, this course examines methods of constructing guidelines for maintaining digital security. Students may earn hands-on experience by constructing and implementing their own information security program as they become acquainted with common standards in digital risk management.
  • Ethical hacking: Students assigned to this course will gain a skillset in high demands as they learn popular techniques in penetration testing for security assessment. Coursework demonstrates how intruders exploit vulnerabilities to infiltrate a system, and how this can be prevented. Topics covered include network scanning, enumeration, and issues in cryptography.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY?

The average online information security degree program consists of around 120 credit hours, but there are several factors that affect the length of a degree. While most students complete their information assurance degree online in two to four years, completion time depends heavily on whether a program is individually paced or taught in a cohort-based format.

Designed for busy people balancing education with professional and personal obligations, asynchronous, or self-paced programs let students complete coursework when and where it’s most convenient. Broadly-defined deadlines and accelerated courses allow organized, focused students to finish their degrees quickly. Conversely, cohort learning requires students to be online at specified times, as lectures and discussions are delivered to a group of online “classmates.” Cohort-based programs emphasize cooperative learning, and may involve participation in group projects or forums. Although they take longer to complete, many students prefer the more structured format of cohort learning degree programs.

If you’ve been researching online degree programs, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the term accredited on many college websites. Accredited institutions are those that meet quality standards defined by an external accrediting organization. Depending on the assessing organization, schools can be regionally or nationally accredited. While these designations may not seem important, they can have a profound influence on your academic career.

Nonprofit, academically-focused schools such as state universities are most often regionally accredited, while for-profit vocational schools typically receive national accreditation. Credits earned at regionally accredited institutions transfer easily to other regionally and nationally accredited schools, but this is rarely the case for those earned through nationally accredited programs. If transferring schools might be in your future, selecting a regionally accredited institution should be a priority. Additionally, most corporate tuition reimbursement plans extend exclusively to regionally accredited programs.

Through the accreditation process, the U.S. Department of Education determines which institutions are eligible to receive federal funding. While this branch of the government doesn’t accredit schools itself, it does rely on information collected from organizations like the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Consisting of representatives from universities around the country, CHEA ensures that regional and national accrediting bodies are adhering to standards. Along with a wealth of resources on the accreditation process, CHEA offers an extensive database of accredited institutions around the country.

JOB PLACEMENT

Does having a bachelor’s degree really lead to a better salary? There are numerous factors that influence annual median pay, including location, company policies, and professional experience, but few variables impact earnings as much as level of education. Even among industry veterans, higher salaries are strongly correlated with higher education. Using data gleaned from PayScale, the table below demonstrates just how much having a bachelor’s degree can affect earnings.

Years of Experience Median Salary: Associate Degree in Information Technology Median Salary: Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
1-4 $40,530 $55,467
5-9 $50,558 $72,000
10-19 $60,720 $90,037

BACHELOR’s IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY SALARY

While salaries depend heavily on individual employers as well as professional experience, even entry-level jobs in the field of information systems security can be highly lucrative. Using data from PayScale, the following table features several careers and specialized positions attainable with an online network security degree, as well as the average salary for each.

Position/Specialty Average Median Salary
Security Policies and Procedures $84,000
IT Security and Infrastructure $84,000
Network Management/Administration $88,000
Microsoft Active Directory $94,000
System Administration $101,000

BACHELOR’S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY CAREERS

The best online degree in information systems security programs provide graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in the workforce. Ideal for detail-oriented individuals with a knack for problem-solving, the field of network security offers graduates a variety of careers that allow them to use their talents to the fullest. A bachelor’s in information systems security prepares candidates for occupations such as:

  1. Information Security Analyst: Information security analysts design and implement plans that protect companies and organizations from hackers. The changing nature and frequency of cyberattacks has given this occupation one of the highest job growth rates in the country, and the demand for experts in the field has increased exponentially.
  2. Computer and Information Systems Manager: Often known as IT managers, these experts ensure the security of a business or organization’s network while directing all computer-related activities. IT managers assess hardware and software to determine any necessary upgrades, and implement new technologies as required.
  3. Network and Computer Systems Administrator: Tasked with the day-to-day maintenance of computer networks, these administrators provide organizations with crucial technical support. Network administrators must be familiar with a range of network types and the technical and security problems commonly encountered with each one. Some assist network architects in program design.
  4. Computer Systems Analyst: Combining aspects of business and information technology, computer systems analysts assess an organization’s computer infrastructure to determine the most beneficial and secure hardware and software upgrades. Through data modelling and flowcharts, they identify an organization’s technological needs and perform cost-benefit analyses to determine the most cost-efficient way of meeting them.
  5. Database Administrator: Database administrators are charged with maintaining the security and accessibility of organizational data through the use of specialized software. Some specialize in systems architecture and program writing, while others focus on the maintenance of particular applications.
Position Average Median Salary Projected Growth Rate
Information Security Analyst $92,600 18%
Computer and Information Systems Manager $135,800 15%
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $79,700 8%
Computer Systems Analyst $87,220 21%
Database Administrator $84,950 11%

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Whether you’re still working on your online information security degree or a recent graduate, joining a professional organization can open up a whole world of opportunities within your field. Offering resources ranging from certification programs to career services, these organizations assist students and professionals alike in a variety of ways. Promoting networking opportunities through chapter meetings and conferences, many groups also offer job search assistance, educational resources, and scholarships. A few that look great on any resume include:

  • Information Systems Security Association: This nonprofit organization is committed to advancing cybersecurity professionals through education and leadership opportunities. Members may join local special interest groups, attend international conferences, or enroll in educational courses.
  • International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium: Offering 10 different certification programs, this organization also maintains a large virtual library of materials pertaining to information security. Students enrolled in participating college programs may be able to earn credit for attending events and webinars.
  • Association of Information Technology Professionals: The premier organization for IT professionals worldwide, this society extends numerous benefits to student members, including scholarships and career fairs.

Paying for an online information security degree might seem overwhelming at first but, fortunately, help is available. Filling out a FAFSA form can help to determine if you’re eligible for federal grants, student loans, or scholarships. An increasing demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals has prompted many businesses and professional organizations to offer scholarships for students pursuing degrees in information security. Many of these scholarships are available to distance learners as well as their traditional counterparts.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.