Scholarships for Military Service Members and Student Veterans

portrait of Heather Mullinix
by Heather Mullinix
Published on November 5, 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Michael J. Kirchner

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According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Education, there were more than 1.4 million military students enrolled in college in 2015-16. And many student veterans are the first in their families to attend college — in 2018, 62% of veterans were first-generation college students.

Active-duty members of the nation's armed services may take advantage of educational benefits to advance their military career or prepare for life after leaving the service. Veterans — individuals who have completed their active-duty service in the military and received their discharge — often seek a college degree to enhance their employment opportunities as they transition to civilian life.

To help cover the costs of college, many military students use veterans' educational benefits such as the GI Bill®. In the 2015-16 academic year, about 43% of military undergraduates used these benefits. The GI Bill provides 36 months of financial support for tuition and living expenses. This 36-month period is prorated over the course of the academic year, generally amounting to roughly four years of funded postsecondary instruction. However, as military students balance their service or family demands with their education, they may require longer to complete their degree.

Combining support programs like the GI Bill with other military scholarships can help military students achieve their educational goals. Below, you can learn more about active-duty military scholarships, military veteran scholarships, scholarships for veterans with disabilities, military grants, and other resources for military students.

Financial Challenges for Military and Student Veterans

Tuition

Tuition at a public four-year college or university averaged $10,740 in 2020-21, College Board reported. Students attending private or out-of-state colleges often pay much more. Out-of-state tuition at a public four-year school averaged $27,560 per year, while private nonprofit schools charged an average of $38,070 in 2020-21.

The U.S. Department of Education reports only 43% of military students in undergraduate programs used veterans benefits in 2015-16, and 36% of military students enrolled in graduate programs received veterans educational benefits.

School Supplies

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides an annual stipend of $1,000 to pay for books and supplies. But CollegeBoard found the average full-time student spends $1,298 on textbooks and course materials each year.

In addition, students often need a laptop and other computer equipment. While costs vary according to specific computing needs, many laptops cost between $500 and $1,000. Students will also need a reliable internet connection.

Living Expenses

While veteran educational benefits provide a housing supplement, called the Basic Housing Allowance (BHA), the amount of this payment may vary depending on a student's course load. Veterans may need help with housing expenses during school breaks or if they enroll part time.

Also, the BHA provides benefits based on the school's location, the veteran's military grade, and if they have dependents in their household. Students attending a school fully online, however, qualify for $871 regardless of where they live. Depending on a student's specific situation, this allowance may not be enough to cover their living expenses.

Medical Expenses

Individuals leaving the military may qualify for some medical care through the Veterans Administration, especially for any care related to their military service. However, individuals leaving the military with less than 20 years of service do not qualify for TRICARE insurance coverage. Students who do not hold a full-time job may not qualify for healthcare coverage through an employer.

Although military service members and student veterans often face unique financial challenges, there are numerous scholarships and grants available that can help defray costs. These awards can help these students meet their educational goals.

Scholarships for Veterans and Active-Duty Military

In 2015-16, veterans made up 4.5% of the undergraduate college enrollment, or about 870,000 students. In addition, there were nearly 300,000 active-duty military students and about 30,000 students in the Reserves and National Guard.

Active-duty military students serve full time in one of the U.S. Armed Services branches. Members of all branches can take advantage of the Military Tuition Assistance Program, which covers tuition expenses up to $250 per credit. Reservists and members of the National Guard can also access this program.

Additionally, active-duty military students and veterans can find scholarships to help cover their college costs. College scholarships may target individuals of a specific branch, require an honorable discharge, and/or include additional eligibility requirements.

Pat Tillman Foundation


Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship


NBCC Foundation Military Scholarship


Jack E. Barger, Sr. Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund


U.S. Army Health Care Enlisted Commissioning Program


Women's Overseas Service League Scholarship


AFCEA War Veterans Scholarship


Marines Memorial Tribute Scholarship


Education Connection Military Scholarship


AMVETS Scholarship


Boundless Opportunity


Fleet Reserve Association Education Foundation Scholarship


Army Women's Foundation Legacy Scholarship


Imagine America's Military Award Program


Wings Over America Scholarships


Council of College and Military Educators Veteran Scholarship


HotelPlanner.com Graduate Technology Scholarship for Military Families


H&P Veterans helping Veterans Scholarships


VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero


NBC Universal SVA Scholarship

Scholarships for Veterans With Disabilities

According to theNational Center for Education Statistics, during the 2015-16 academic year, about 26% of undergraduate student veterans reported having a disability. Veterans who suffered an illness or injury connected with their military service may qualify for disability compensation.

This benefit amount can vary depending on the severity of their ongoing medical or mental health conditions. Veterans typically receive a disability rating between 10% and 100% when they leave the service, but they can also apply for benefits if conditions related to their service arise later.

Veterans with disabilities may also qualify for specific scholarships.

Military Order of the Purple Heart Scholarship Program


Paralyzed Veterans of America Scholarship Program


Medal of Honor and Andrew J. Trail Purple Heart Recipient Tuition Waiver


Veterans United Scholarship


CTU Patriot Scholarship


Braydon and Myrth Fox Scholarship


Indiana Purple Heart Recipient

Grants for Military Service Members and Student Veterans

Pell Grant


Post-9/11 GI Bill


Helping Heroes Grant


Disabled American Veterans Tuition Waiver

Additional Financial Resources for Military and Student Veterans

The VA manages veteran educational programs, including the GI Bill®. Find out what benefits you qualify for and how to apply for education and training benefits. In addition to the GI Bill, you may qualify for Veteran Readiness and Employment programs. The VA also offers career counseling in addition to a host of other financial assistance programs. The U.S. Department of Education gathered several resources on financial aid opportunities for military students and their families. Military service may qualify individuals for additional federal financial aid through the Federal Pell Grant and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. The GI Bill caps tuition awards at private schools at a little over $26,000 for the 2021-22 school year. Schools may agree to waive a portion of the remaining cost for veteran students under this program through the VA. The VA works with schools to offer services that help veterans succeed in the classroom. Counselors may also assist veterans with applying for healthcare benefits, accessing mental health services, or finding appropriate housing. Military students bring a wealth of experience to the classroom. Prior learning assessments allow schools to award academic credit for that knowledge and experience, reducing the number of credits necessary for graduation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for Military and Student Veterans

Can active-duty military fill out the FAFSA? true

Yes. All prospective college students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. It's free to complete the FAFSA. The information helps the U.S. Department of Education and your school determine how much financial assistance you need to afford college. You can file your FAFSA beginning Oct. 1 each year. Filing early helps secure financial awards available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Under federal rules, active-duty members of the military and veterans qualify as independent students, even if they are not yet 24 years old. You do not need to include your parent's financial information.

Is college free for active-duty military? true

Active-duty military may qualify for tuition assistance to take college courses. The program caps benefits at $250 per credit hour, up to $4,500 each year, and does not cover books. Students must complete the course with a passing grade or repay any tuition assistance paid on their behalf. The program also will not cover courses students have taken in the past.

You may also be able to find a scholarship that will pay for college, depending on your area of study and your service branch. The U.S. Air Force, for example, offers several healthcare professionals scholarships that cover tuition, books, and a living allowance.

What is a military grant? true

Military grants provide students with financial assistance to pay for school without requiring that money to be paid back. The Federal Pell Grant offers up to $6,495 in federal education assistance for students with financial need. States, individual schools, and nonprofit organizations may also offer grants.

Military grant programs require a student to be an active or former member of the U.S. Armed Services or be a dependent or spouse of military personnel. These financial programs may include monetary awards or tuition waivers that reduce educational costs, such as the Illinois National Guard Grant Program, which provides four years of tuition at eligible schools.

Does the military pay for private schools?

You can use military educational benefits at public or private colleges and universities, but the benefits may not cover the total cost of tuition. The GI Bill caps payments to private or foreign schools at around $26,000 for the 2021-22 academic year. Tuition assistance caps payments at $250 per credit and up to $4,500 per year.

Colleges and universities may take part in the Yellow Ribbon program. Under this voluntary program, schools agree to contribute a portion of the additional cost. Schools may cap participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, so be sure to apply early if you plan to enroll in a private school or out-of-state college.

Do dependents of veterans with disabilities get college benefits?

Yes, several programs provide college benefits for the dependents of veterans with disabilities. Benefits include federal education benefits through the Veterans Administration, state grants and tuition waivers, and veteran scholarships offered by nonprofit organizations.

The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance program through the VA provides educational benefits to the children of veterans with a service-connected disability or who died on active duty. Children generally must use benefits before they turn 26. The program covers undergraduate and graduate programs, career training, and apprenticeships.

The Alabama G.I. Dependent Scholarship Program offers five years of college study to children and dependents of veterans who have a disability rating of 40% or higher (exceptions apply). Students must pursue an undergraduate degree at a state school and be a resident of the state.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/index.asp.


Feature Image: AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Military service members can use veteran education benefits to pay for college. Learn how to make the most of the benefits you've earned. Military dependents make many sacrifices for their loved ones. Scholarships and aid for military dependents can help them achieve their educational goals. College scholarships can be tricky to track down if you don't know where to start. Discover the best resources for finding the perfect scholarship for you.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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