With all the hoopla surrounding the recent presidential election, we think it's important to take a moment to recognize the service members who protect one of the most important rights we hold as Americans: the right to vote. Veterans Day is coming up on November 12, and in honor of America's veterans, we're showcasing a number of scholarship opportunities for those of you who are transitioning from a career in the military.
The financial burden of college can be extremely overwhelming for veterans and their families. Thankfully, there are a lot of excellent scholarship and financial aid opportunities out there for you, including several we covered in a previous post.
[Learn more about paying for college.]
If you're a veteran who is looking to receive additional training or earn your college degree, before you do anything, you should apply for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' GI Bill and Post-9/11 GI Bill, which remains the No. 1 financial aid option for veterans who have been honorably discharged within the past 15 years.
If you're a veteran with 36 months of service or more, the GI Bill will pay full tuition and fees at public institutions, plus a housing allowance and textbook stipend. Those with shorter service terms will receive a sliding percentage of the benefit; those going to private schools will receive up to $17,500 toward tuition and fees per academic year.
Active reservists are also eligible for funding under the Reserve GI Bill. Different options and criteria abound, so check out the site thoroughly.
Unfortunately, the increasing cost of college tuition means that the GI Bill often leaves veterans with a gap in funding. If that's the case for you, private scholarships can help fill that gap.
[Read about challenges facing veterans going to college.]
Are you a member of The American Legion? The organization offers several scholarships for members and their dependents, plus several for youth who are involved with The American Legion.
For example, if you're an adult looking to return to school or make a career change, you could benefit from The American Legion's Nontraditional Student Scholarship, which is awarded to one person per geographical region every year. Eligible applicants must be a member of The American Legion, Auxiliary, or Sons of The American Legion, and dues must have been paid for the two preceding years.
Veterans United Home Loans, which touts itself as being the nation's largest provider of VA loans, also offers a scholarship specifically for veterans through its foundation. The Veterans United Foundation Scholarship Program aims to assist military service members and their families by awarding five biannual $2,000 scholarships to help pay for tuition and books.
Spouses and children of veterans are also eligible to apply. The Foundation accepts applications twice a year; the upcoming spring deadline is April 30.
Finally, if you're a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, or a spouse, widow or direct lineal descendent (child, stepchild, adopted child, or grandchild) of a member, you could be eligible to receive a scholarship from the organization, which can be used for tuition, books, incidental fees, room and board, and other direct associated costs of higher education.
If you've received a Purple Heart and would like to apply for a scholarship, but you're not yet a member of the Order, it's easy to join.
Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.