After serving their country, many veterans attend or return to secondary schools to deepen knowledge in a particular field, acquire new skills to pursue a career, and/or improve their lives. Former service members can benefit from advanced degrees and certifications from colleges and universities. Concerned about costs, veterans and their families may have questions about the availability of scholarships and other benefits. While many veterans are aware of the GI Bill® — a government program that provides education and tuition benefits to military members who have completed their service — they may not know about other scholarship and financing options.
For veterans interested in pursuing a college degree, scholarship options vary depending on the attending school, length of military service, and the military branch. Veterans can pursue flexible degree programs that fit around potential redeployment or other career opportunities. In some instances, relatives of veterans can use a service member’s scholarship and financing options. For military personnel looking to pursue a college degree, this guide examines the benefits, educational resources, and scholarships available for veterans.
Veteran Scholarships for Going Back to School
As every veteran is unique, their educational experiences are diverse. Therefore, many resources exist detailing the scholarships and funding options for veterans. The following statistics show the benefits that these opportunities offer to veterans and their families for advancing their education and careers.
Veteran education funding
The GI Bill® is instrumental in helping veterans return to school. In March 2018, the Veterans Administration released data on the number of veterans using the GI Bill® and the amount of money spent at academic institutions for the program.
- Since 2009, veterans used over $34 million through the GI Bill® to return to school.
- In 2017, more than 650,000 clients received educational funding through the GI Bill®.
- Nearly $5 million in funding helped these vets receive education at thousands of colleges across the United States. These colleges include public, private, and for-profit schools.
Rates and benefits of higher education for veterans
Veterans interested in pursuing higher education should research veteran scholarships as the benefits are extensive. These statistics show how scholarships helped veterans earn degrees that led to a higher salary.
Business, management, and marketing are among the most common fields where veterans earn degrees.
- According to a National Veteran Education Success Trackers (NVEST) report, veterans earned 96,270 degrees in these fields with the help of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Veterans also commonly earned degrees in the health professions, liberal arts and sciences, homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting.
Veterans with a bachelor’s degree earn more than those who haven’t served in the military.
- According to the VA, these veterans earn $17,000 more in annual salary. Veterans with advanced degrees earn nearly $30,000 more than their non-veteran peers.
Veterans land jobs in competitive STEM fields with the help of degrees.
- Student veterans earned at least 51,486 degrees in STEM fields. Jobs in these fields often require advanced degrees and are higher paying than non-STEM careers.
GI Bill®, Forever GI Bill®, VR&E, and DEA
Individuals interested in pursuing veteran scholarships often turn to the GI Bill® as a primary funding resource for their education. First enacted in 1944, the GI Bill® is one of the most popular veteran scholarship and funding options. Veterans can use the bill to receive four years of full tuition (up to $24,476.79 for private or foreign schools) to pay for in-state student fees. Veterans also can use tuition benefits for vocational flight schools, correspondence schools and non-college degree-granting institutions.
The GI Bill® also provides allowances and stipends for housing and books. Veterans interested in pursuing apprenticeships or on-the-job training can receive a 100% monthly housing allowance during their first six months in these programs.
The VA provides eligibility information for the GI Bill® and a comparison tool to determine what types of benefits are available based on veteran service status, school and program. In addition to veteran scholarships and funding, veterans can obtain additional GI Bill® resources, including work-study expansion and monthly housing allowances, through the Forever GI Bill®.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program also provides veterans and service members “job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching,” according to the program’s website. These resources help student veterans gain additional professional skills outside the classroom.
Scholarships for veterans offered on the state level
In addition to the GI Bill®, individuals can receive veteran scholarships, tuition assistance, and loan options at the state level. Military.com outlines an extensive list of the benefits offered by each state.
Veteran Scholarships and Grants for Continuing Education
Specialized veteran scholarships and grants offer vocational training for veterans as well as scholarships for continuing education programs for those interested in pursuing specific career paths.
Scholarships for veterans pursuing vocational education opportunities
These vocational scholarships and grants, similar to the GI Bill®, are available for military personnel to pursue non-degree educational programs. For example, the Montgomery GI Bill® offers active-duty service members and reserve members a monthly education benefit for up to three years for vocational training. Veterans can receive a range of benefits through this bill depending on the type of vocational training, length of military service, military category, and other college fund eligibility factors.
Scholarships and grants for veterans pursuing certain careers
Veterans with specific career paths in mind can pursue additional educational funding options. Nonprofit and government organizations and even larger companies offer career-focused veteran scholarships and grants such as:
- Law Enforcement: Daniel Drevnick Memorial Fund
- Nursing: Army Nurse Corps Association (ANCA) Scholarship
- STEM careers: Additional benefits offered by the Forever GI Bill®
Depending on the state or school of enrollment, veterans can pursue additional scholarships based on career field or program. Veterans should research to determine if current or prospective schools offer such scholarships.
Disabled Veterans Scholarships and Grants
Veterans with disabilities may pursue additional educational financing opportunities such as:
- Ankin Law Office Disabled Veterans Scholarship
- Paralyzed Veterans of America Scholarship Program
- VetSuccess on Campus
Former service members may have access to additional disabled veteran scholarships, grants, and financial resources. Fastweb, a reputable online scholarship resource, lists several scholarships for veterans with disabilities offering funds up to $5,000. Many schools also independently offer funding options to veterans with disabilities.
Veteran Scholarships for Graduate School
Veteran educational funding options extend beyond undergraduate degrees and vocational programs. Former military members also have options for veteran scholarships for graduate school programs.
The benefits of the GI Bill® can extend to a veteran’s graduate degree program, with payments depending on a student’s enrollment status. According to a blog post from the VA, $21,084.89 is paid yearly to veteran students who attend graduate programs at private or foreign schools, and full resident tuition is paid if their graduate program is at a public school.
Veteran graduate students also can receive housing allowances through the GI Bill®. Depending on the school of attendance, veterans can receive a monthly stipend on average of $1,566 average or more, according to the VA. Students enrolled in online degree programs also can receive a housing stipend of $783, half the national average. All GI Bill® benefits are in addition to any other graduate school veteran scholarships received by a military member.
Loan repayment programs
Graduate students who exhaust their GI Bill benefits, as well as other graduate school veteran scholarship and funding options, can get funding through student loans. Military students can benefit from loan repayment and forgiveness programs.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program can forgive the remaining balance on a veteran’s direct student loan after “120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.”
The National Defense Student Loan Discharge program is available to service members who meet the following requirements as outlined by Military.com:
- If service concluded before Aug. 14, 2008, military members can qualify for up to 50% cancellation of their federal Perkins Loans if service was in a hostile-fire or imminent danger location.
- Military members whose service began on or after that date can receive forgiveness for their Perkins Loan.
- Schools must forgive 100% of the balance of a Perkins Loan for 12 full months of active duty. A commanding officer must certify dates.
Veteran Spouse and Dependents Scholarships
Dependents of former military members can receive educational benefits through veteran spouse scholarships and scholarships for veteran dependents. These scholarships vary on state residence. In California, children and spouses of disabled veterans caused by a service-related incident or those who passed during active service can receive tuition waivers at public colleges and universities, after meeting certain eligibility factors. In Alaska, spouses and dependents of veterans with disabilities or those who passed away in combat can be eligible for free tuition at state-supported schools.
In addition to veteran spouse scholarships and scholarships for veteran dependents, beneficiaries of permanently disabled veterans due to a service-related condition, or of those who passed during active duty in a service-related event, can use the Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) program. Beneficiaries from this program can receive up to 36 months of benefits if beginning after August 1, 2018, and 45 months of benefits if started before that date. “Benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training,” according to the DEA website. Spouses can also use the benefits for a correspondence course.
Scholarships for Veteran Children and Family Members
In addition to those offered by individual states, other scholarships for veteran children and family members offer funding if a parent or relative is or was a veteran
According to the VA, servicemembers can transfer all or some of their unused benefits to family members or children. For example, if a service member wanted to pursue a two-year degree after completing service through GI BIll® benefits, they could transfer the remaining one year of benefits to a child or spouse.
However, a military member must make the request while still in service. The benefits are transferrable to a spouse, a child, multiple children, or any combination of spouse and child. Once receiving a request, the Department of Defense reviews it for approval. In addition to GI Bill® benefits, children and family of former military members investigate the many scholarships for veteran children.
Veterans returning to school have multiple scholarship and funding options based on their military service. Some of these funding opportunities are available through programs like the GI Bill, while others are offered by individual universities, state programs, and even to veterans pursuing specific fields.
Veterans aren’t the only individuals who can use their scholarship or funding options. Spouses and children are eligible for GI Bill® benefits as well as other external scholarships.
Veterans should pursue multiple scholarships, carefully considering which program is right for their situation, and seek resources at potential schools for financial help and other assistance.
Veterans have access to an extensive number of scholarships and funding when pursuing higher education. Norwich University offers 10 renowned and accredited online academic programs, each providing veterans with an enriching education and the ability to complete their degrees in a method that works in conjunction with their current life responsibilities.
As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University continues to maintain its leadership position in innovative education for over a century. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students – both military and civilians - to make a positive impact in their places of work and communities.
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Education and Training, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
VA releases data of educational organizations receiving GI Bill Payments,U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Fact Sheets, National Veteran Education Success Tracker
Veterans Continue to Succeed in Higher Education, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) Payment Rates for 2019 Academic Year (August 1, 2019 - July 31, 2020), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
How to Apply for the GI Bill and Other Education Benefits, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
GI Bill Comparison Tool, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Forever GI Bill - Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Forever GI Bill Sections, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
State Veteran Education Benefits, Military.com
Montgomery GI Bill, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Qualifications, Daniel Drevnick Memorial Fund
Scholarships, Army Nurse Corps Association
ANCA Scholarship Thank-Yous, Army Nurse Corps Association
Disabled Veterans Scholarship, Ankin Law Office
Scholarship Program, Paralyzed Veterans of America
VetSuccess on Campus, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Disabled Veterans, Fastweb
Learn to Use Your GI Bill for Grad School, VA.org
Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Federal Student Aid
Military Student Loan Forgiveness and Discharge Programs, Military.com
State Veteran Benefits Pacific, Military.com
Dependents Education Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Transfer Post-9/11 Bills to Spouse and Dependents, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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 Web site at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.