State Financial Aid Info
When it comes to financial aid, the first question most students and parents ask is “Where do I begin?”
The best place to begin your search is the high school guidance office. In addition to college directories, like Barron’s, Fiske, and School Guide, many guidance offices also use computerized college search programs that provide comprehensive information about colleges nationwide, including financial aid programs, the number of students who receive financial aid, the average amount awarded, and the total annual amount available for the entire student body. If your school uses one of these online programs, be sure to attend any orientation sessions or tutorials to ensure that you get the most out of your search.
Your guidance office will also have many reference books listing various scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs at the national, state, and local levels. Your local public library also has these publications, usually in a special “Education and Careers” section or in the “Young Adult” section.
Your high school might also have a Financial Aid Night featuring financial aid advisors from lending institutions, colleges, or the guidance department of the high school. Be sure to attend this event with your parents. Your school counselors will also be familiar with state scholarship programs and the financial aid programs and practices of colleges normally attended by students from your high school.
Next, you might contact the colleges to which you expect to apply. They will not only have information about their own financial aid programs, but may be able to help you with other sources of aid and perhaps help you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other forms. In many cases, smaller colleges are in a better position to help you with this than many larger universities.
Throughout this preliminary search process you should be asking yourself the following questions:
l) What are the specific programs that might help me?
2) How do I apply to these programs?
3) What are my chances of qualifying for assistance?
Be Thorough and Careful
The financial aid process requires hard work and persistence. The financial aid applications can be complex and confusing. They may be returned to you for clarification or additional information. Oftentimes follow-up on your aid application may be necessary. For this reason, be sure to make copies of all of the applications and documents you submit, including the date submitted, as you may need them for reference.
Don’t be afraid to call the college financial aid office or state scholarship or grant office to find out the status of your application. Millions of financial aid applications are filed each year, increasing the possibility that mistakes will be made and items will be overlooked. It is your responsibility to make sure this does not happen to you.
Finally, be sure to file your application as soon as possible (usually January 1 of the senior year).
Students and parents with questions about federal financial aid programs, application procedures, eligibility formulas or any other concerns about financing higher education can call the information hotline, 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or visit the Web site www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov.
A Word of Warning
The official FAFSA is at www.fafsa.ed.gov – not at a .com Web site. There is no fee to submit the FAFSA. Any site with a .com address will probably charge you a fee to complete and submit the application. You are advised not to use those sites. You can get live help completing the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov or by calling 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or (319) 337-5665.
Also, there is no Department of Education (ED) program that replaces loans with grants, nor is there a fee to obtain ED administered grants. Do not provide personal or financial information to unsolicited callers. To report suspected fraud, contact the Federal Trade Commission, 1-877-382-4357 or visit www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscam.
Sources of Financial Aid
The vast majority of students attending college with the help of financial aid receive this aid from one of three primary sources:
1) Colleges, universities and other postsecondary institutions. Most have scholarships, grants, loans and work opportunities to help their students pay for their education.
2) The Federal Government. The U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov), administers programs that provide more than $150 billion annually in grants, loans and work-study assistance.
3) State Governments. All 50 states and the District of Columbia fund or administer student aid programs including loans, scholarships, or grants.
Beyond these primary sources, various groups such as the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, other service organizations, local governments, and private companies often award scholarships to college-bound students.
How to Apply
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the application that must be used to apply for any type of federal financial aid. It is also used by most colleges and states to determine student eligibility for state or institutional aid. The form is available in high schools and colleges across the country and online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
In order to file the FAFSA online, the student and parents must all have a personal identification number (PIN), as the PIN serves as an electronic signature on the FAFSA. The PIN is easily obtained at www.pin.ed.gov. Please note that the PIN provides access to personal information, including your Social Security number and financial information, and should not be shared with anyone.
The FAFSA may not be filed before January 1 of the student’s senior year in high school, but should be filed as soon after January 1 as possible. Although there are questions about income as well as taxes paid, etc., you should not wait until after you and your parents have completed your income tax forms to complete the FAFSA. This may cause your application to be too late for you to receive any financial aid, especially from colleges and universities. You should file the FAFSA as early as possible using estimates of your income taxes as outlined on the form itself. Simply check the box that indicates that you will file an income tax form, but have not done so as of the date you are filing the FAFSA.
If you have done your taxes, be sure to consider the option in FAFSA on the Web to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This option is available if you filed your taxes electronically at least three weeks prior or if you filed on paper at least eight weeks prior. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool takes you to the IRS Web site, where you will need to log in by providing your name and other information exactly as you provided it on your tax return. At the IRS site, you can preview your information before agreeing to have it transferred to your FAFSA. You can also use the tool if you submitted estimated tax information and want to update the numbers after completing your taxes.
Once you have completed the personal information on the application, follow the instructions for listing the colleges you wish to have the information sent to. If you are applying online, the code number will automatically be inserted according to a prompt. If you are filing a paper application, you can get the code from www.fafsa.ed.gov, the high school guidance office, or from the specific college. The application will also ask you what state you live in and based on this, will send the information to your state’s financial aid agency so you will be considered for state scholarship and grant programs. Finally, the information will automatically be sent to the Pell Grant program.
Expected Family Contribution
The ED provides all of these agencies and institutions with an analysis of the information you have provided on the FAFSA according to a Congressional formula. The formula is used to determine how much a family might be expected to pay toward the applicant’s education (family contribution). This amount, called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), will be used to determine whether or not the student has “financial need,” which is what defines eligibility for most financial aid programs.
The formula takes into consideration such things as family income, assets, number of people in the family, federal and state taxes paid, the number of children in college, and a number of other factors. The calculation does not factor in equity in your home or funds in a 401K or other retirement accounts.
Families should be aware that an asset reported in the parents’ name is assessed at a lower rate than if that same asset were reported in the student’s name. This figure can make a considerable difference in the EFC.
The applicant will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which includes the EFC. The figure usually appears right under the date the report was sent. The student, colleges, and all federal and state agencies receive the same EFC. The SAR also summarizes the information you have provided on the FAFSA. Check it for accuracy and make any necessary corrections. (If you had previously estimated your income taxes, this is your opportunity to replace those estimates with the actual figures.) The report will also indicate whether or not you are eligible for a Pell Grant.
The FAFSA does not provide space to explain any unusual circumstances (unemployment, large medical bills, tuition for other children in elementary or secondary school). These circumstances should be carefully explained and documented wherever possible and sent directly to the financial aid office of the college to which you are applying. The college financial aid officer will determine whether or not the unusual circumstances will be taken into consideration.
When the financial aid officer receives the analysis, the information is reviewed and any necessary adjustments are made to the evaluation. The adjusted EFC is matched against the college’s cost of attendance (COA) to determine if the student demonstrates financial need. At this point the financial aid officer would notify the student of his or her award or indicate that the student is not eligible for aid.
Some colleges may require additional applications (either the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, available by visiting the College Board web site http://student.collegeboard.org, or a separate financial aid application specifically for that college) for use in awarding their own aid money. Be sure to check with the colleges to which you are applying to see what applications are required.
Whether you apply for federal, state, or institutional aid, you should be sure to complete all forms accurately and honestly and be sure to submit them before the established deadlines.
Since most financial aid programs require applicants to demonstrate financial need, it is important to examine that concept more closely. Simply defined, financial need is the difference between what it will cost a student to attend a particular school (COA) and the amount that the family can contribute toward the student’s education (EFC). The college’s COA includes tuition, room, board, all fees, and reasonable estimates for books, supplies, travel, clothing and recreational expenses.
Students and parents can calculate what their Expected Family Contribution would be by using an online calculator like the one available at FAFSA4Caster.ed.gov or www.finaid.org. Take into consideration that financial need is a relative figure and will vary depending on each college’s overall costs.
Normally, the FAFSA will ask for income for the student and the student’s parents. In cases where the student’s parents are divorced or separated, or the student is filing as an independent student, meaning that only his or her income is reported, special care should be taken in completing the application to be sure that accurate income information is supplied. Instructions for these and other unusual circumstances are available at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Financial Aid “Packaging”
Most colleges combine various types of awards into a “package” in an attempt to meet a student’s financial need. Thus a student with a financial need of $5,000 might be awarded a $3,000 college grant, a $1,000 Perkins Loan, and a $1,000 College Work-Study job. The college also takes into consideration aid that a student has received from other sources. For example, if a student receives a Pell Grant or a state scholarship, the college would take these resources into consideration when determining the student’s financial need. All of these funds would be outlined in the student’s financial aid package. In this way, colleges are able to help the greatest number of students with the limited funds they have available.
If the family is not satisfied with a student’s financial aid package, they should appeal to the financial aid office at the college. Simply indicate the student’s strong interest in the particular college and ask if the award can be reviewed, or if there are other sources of aid that might be pursued.
Federal Financial Aid
On August 2, 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put into place automatic federal budget cuts, known as a “sequester,” to take effect if Congress failed to enact legislation to reduce the federal deficit by March 1, 2013. Because Congress did not act, these budget cuts are now in effect and may have some bearing on the programs outlined below. Visit http://studentaid.ed.gov for updated information.
The Pell Grant is designed to help lower-income students pay their expenses for postsecondary education. The maximum Pell Grant award for the academic year 2013–2014 is $5,645. Both eligibility for a grant and the maximum amount a student might receive are determined by the family’s financial circumstances and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A grant, however, may not exceed one half of the total cost at the institution that the student wishes to attend.
There is no separate application for the Pell Grant. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only application necessary for this grant.
Part-time students are also eligible for Pell Grants, but the award would be reduced according to the amount of time the student is attending school (that is, half-time students would receive half of their grant).
Once the EFC has been established, it is sent to the colleges the student indicated on the FAFSA. The financial aid officer will use the information on the Student Aid Report (SAR) to determine if the student is eligible for a Pell Grant and the exact dollar amount of the grant at that particular institution.
Pell Grants may be used at colleges, vocational, technical, and business schools, and hospital schools of nursing, both public and private, profit and nonprofit.
The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program is available to students who are currently completing coursework necessary to begin a career in teaching; or those who plan to complete coursework necessary to begin a career in teaching. In order to be eligible for awards of up to $4,000 per year, the candidate must have at least a 3.25 GPA for each payment period. Upon graduation, the student must teach full-time for at least four years within eight years of completing their program, in a school designated as Title I by the U.S. Department of Education, in a high needs subject area. If the grant recipient fails to complete the service obligation, the award will be converted to a Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan.
Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
A student who is not eligible for a Pell Grant but whose parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 may be eligible to receive the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. The grant recipient must be under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent’s or guardian’s death.
The grant award is equal to the amount of a maximum Pell Grant for the award year – not to exceed the cost of attendance for that award year.
Students and parents should note that the Heath Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 mandates that all schools process loans through the Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP).
All federal student loans are now made directly through the U.S. Department of Education.
You must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for Stafford and/or graduate student PLUS loans. Borrowers will have to complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN). Borrowers already in school will have to complete a new MPN. You will accept or decline your federal student loans through your school, which works directly with the federal government. For parents interested in a PLUS loan, completing the PLUS Loan Information Form will initiate the application process.
Contact your school’s financial aid office for detailed information.
Federal Stafford Student Loan
The Federal Stafford Student Loan Program is a long-term, low-interest loan that is operated through the federal government. The loans are available as either subsidized or unsubsidized. To receive a subsidized loan, on which the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school, the borrower must demonstrate financial need. Financial need is not a consideration for securing an unsubsidized loan, for which the borrower pays all the interest. The current maximum amount a dependent student may borrow per year on a subsidized loan ranges from $3,500 to $5,500 per year (plus a maximum of $2,000 in unsubsidized loans) depending on grade level. Independent students may be eligible to borrow higher amounts.
Information provided on the FAFSA will determine the student’s eligibility for these loans.
A subsidized Stafford Student Loan cannot exceed the financial need for which it is intended (cost of attendance, minus other financial aid, minus the family contribution).
All students receiving a loan will be required to pay a fee of 1.051 percent, which may be subtracted from the loan at the time the money is disbursed.
Students are granted a six-month grace period after leaving college before the first loan payment is due. However, if you receive a Direct Subsidized Loan that is first disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, you will be responsible for paying any interest that accrues during your grace period. If you choose not to pay the interest that accrues during your grace period, the interest will be added to your principal balance.
Deferment of loan repayment may be allowed for certain circumstances. Visit www.studentaid.ed.gov for details.
The repayment period for Stafford Loans depends on the amount of the loan and the payment schedule selected. Standard repayment is 10 years; however, it may be extended up to 30 years. A $50 minimum monthly payment is required on all loans. Loans may be repaid early without penalties.
The interest rate for both the subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans first disbursed to undergraduate students on or between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 is fixed at 3.86 percent.
Parents Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
The PLUS loan allows parents to borrow an amount equal to the difference between the student’s cost of attendance (room, board, tuition and fees) and the amount of financial aid the student receives. Currently, PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.41 percent.
Repayment of principal and interest must begin within 60 days after parents receive full disbursement of the loan. The interest is not subsidized while the student is in school, unlike the subsidized Stafford and Perkins loans. The PLUS loan charges loan fees of 4.204 percent, deducted from each disbursement check. Some repayment options give discounts for on-time or electronic payments.
Campus-Based Financial Aid
Certain campus-based programs use federally-allocated funds to provide students at their school with low-cost loans, grants, or work-study opportunities. Others award scholarships and grants using the school’s own funds, including endowments and private contributions.
Federal Perkins Loan Program
The Federal Perkins Loan Program offers long-term, low-interest loans to students who can demonstrate financial need. The maximum that can be borrowed under this program is $5,500 per year for undergraduates and $8,000 per year for graduate students.
While the loan uses federal funds, your school is the lender, meaning you will repay the loan directly to the school. No repayment is required while the student is in college. Payment begins nine months after the student leaves school or enrollment status falls below half-time. Deferments of up to three years are possible if the borrower is engaged in certain activities as outlined by the federal government. No interest is charged during this time. During the 10-year repayment period, the interest rate is 5 percent. The loan may be paid off early without penalty.
Visit www.studentaid.ed.gov/repaying for information about repayment options, deferments, and loan forgiveness or cancellation programs.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program provides awards ranging from $100 to $4,000 per year for students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Since these are grants, the student does not have to work for the money nor does the money have to be repaid.
The grants are renewable over four years, provided the student remains eligible. Funding is limited, so students should file the FAFSA as soon as possible.
Federal College Work-Study
Most colleges now participate in the federally sponsored College Work-Study Program. This program is designed to help students pay for their education by providing them with jobs while they are enrolled in college. Students usually work a limited number of hours per week while school is in session, thus ensuring that the job will not interfere with their academic program.
Students may work on campus in any capacity, including work in academic departments and administrative offices as well as library work, landscaping, and maintenance work. Off campus, Federal College Work-Study jobs are limited to nonprofit agencies such as high schools, community action groups, YWCA and YMCA. Maximum earnings are determined by the college, but the student is paid at least federal minimum wage. In addition to jobs during the school year, the program provides for summer employment of 40 hours per week for a duration of eight to ten weeks, enabling students to earn substantially more during the summer.
While the provisions of the program dictate that the neediest students must be given preference, any student who can demonstrate financial need is eligible to participate. Jobs are usually renewable for four years, provided the student meets the requirements of the program.
Some of the greatest sources of financial aid are the nation’s colleges and universities, which distribute money in the form of scholarships and grants. These awards are made directly to the student by the college and are outright “gifts,” which the student does not need to repay. While the amount of most awards is determined by a student’s financial need, there are usually other criteria that an applicant must meet. The most commonly used criterion is “academic potential” as measured by high school records and college entrance tests (e.g. SAT or ACT tests).
In recent years, more colleges are offering “academic merit scholarships,” which are based completely on a student’s academic record without regard for the financial circumstances of the family. Students who cannot demonstrate financial need but have proven themselves to be strong academically should inquire about such awards at all colleges in which they have an interest.
As the availability of financial aid varies from college to college, families should be sure to ask about the percentage of students at each college who are receiving aid, as well as the amount of the average aid package. High numbers in these two categories usually indicate that a student will have a better chance of getting adequate financial aid.
The more selective the college, the higher the applicant’s grades and scores must be to get a merit scholarship. Thus, at a very selective college, a student might need to rank in the top 5 percent of the class while at another, less selective college, merit scholarships might go to students who rank in the top 30 percent. The key to merit scholarships is matching the student’s credentials to the requirements at specific colleges.
Other scholarships, often called activity awards, may be given to applicants who are active in such things as debate, band, dramatics, newspaper or yearbook, or athletics.
College-awarded scholarships oftentimes will cover tuition or more, and are renewable for four years, provided that the student meets the stated requirements of the award.
Easing the Cost of a College Education
Individuals and families who pay college tuition, fees, and other related expenses may be eligible for a tax break on their federal income tax. This section describes various programs and tax benefits that may make higher education more affordable for many families. This information is meant as a guide only. For more detailed information on all the tax benefits outlined below, consult your tax professional or refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Higher Education, available online at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. Copies of the publication may also be available in your local library, guidance office, or post office.
American Opportunity Tax Credit (modifies Hope Scholarship)
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) modifies the existing Hope Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010 and has been extended to include the 2011 and 2012 tax years, making education tax credits available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. In addition to tuition paid it also adds required course materials, such as books and supplies, to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four postsecondary years instead of two.
Under the AOTC a taxpayer will be able to reduce his/her tax liability one dollar for each dollar of eligible credit. If the amount of the American Opportunity Tax Credit for which the taxpayer is eligible is more than the tax liability, the balance of the credit is refundable, up to a maximum refund of 40 percent (up to $1,000) of the amount of the credit for which the taxpayer is eligible. The maximum annual credit will be $2,500 per student. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.
Lifetime Learning Credit
For families of students in junior and senior year, or graduate school (as well as adults returning to school) a tuition tax credit is allowed, equal to 20 percent of the first $10,000 paid in tuition and fees, or $2,000. Benefits are phased out for individuals with adjusted gross income (AGI) of more than $60,000 for single filers and for joint filers with AGI of more than $120,000.
Student Loan Interest Deduction
Interest paid on student loans will now be considered a tax deduction. This benefit comes in the form of an adjustment to income, meaning you do not need to itemize on your tax return in order to be eligible. The deduction can reduce taxable income by up to $2,500. The deduction is phased out for single tax filers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000; $150,000 for joint filers.
Tuition and Fees Deduction
Taxpayers can deduct up to $4,000 in tuition expenses as an exclusion from income. This means itemizing deductions on schedule A of the 1040 is not necessary. The deduction is phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $80,000 (single filers) and $160,000 (married filing jointly). The Limited Deduction can be used in conjunction with tax-free distributions from Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, qualified tuition programs, and education savings bonds, provided that different education expenses form the basis for each benefit. The deduction cannot be used if the AOTC or Lifetime Learning tax credit is applied for the same student in the same year.
Qualified Tuition Programs and 529 Plans
A qualified tuition program (QTP) is one in which the contributor (a student’s parent, grandparent or other individual) prepays college tuition to an eligible educational institution or contributes to an account established for the purpose of paying qualified educational expenses. Earnings accrued on the QTP that are used to pay qualified educational expenses including tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, and room and board (student must attend at least half-time) are free from federal tax and in some cases from state taxes as well.
Contributions to a QTP cannot be more than the amount necessary to provide for the qualified education expenses of the beneficiary. There are no income restrictions for this program.
Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts
Coverdell Accounts are funds established exclusively for higher education expenses (including tuition and fees, books, supplies and some room and board expenses) for individual children under the age of 18. Contributions must be made “after taxes.” However, earnings accumulate tax free and no taxes are paid on withdrawals provided they are used for higher education expenses. The maximum contribution is $2,000 per year. (Families of military personnel killed in action may contribute 100 percent of survivor benefits.) The benefit is phased out for single filers with adjusted gross incomes greater than $110,000, and for joint filers with adjusted gross incomes greater than $220,000.
MORE MONEY FOR COLLEGE
Regular Student Employment
In addition to the Federal College Work-Study Program, many colleges employ students directly. Students work in all phases of the college, often working at the same type of jobs as students in the Work-Study Program. In many instances, however, there is no financial need requirement, and jobs are open to any student who wishes employment, regardless of financial circumstances.
Students should also consider part-time work in local business and industry. Often the Director of Financial Aid or the Placement Office will help students to find such off-campus employment.
A number of scholarships are made available each year by many local groups, such as labor unions, veterans groups, businesses, professional organizations, fraternal societies, benevolent organizations, high schools, and church groups. A good Web site to consult for all types of scholarships is www.fastweb.com. You can also start your search at www.finaid.org or www.collegeboard.com, or consult your high school counselor.
Under this program, the student alternates periods of study with periods of work directly related to his or her academic interest. The salary earned during work periods enables the student to pay a major part of college expenses. More colleges each year are participating in this program.
Visit the National Commission for Cooperative Education Web site at
www.co-op.edu for a list of schools that offer cooperative programs. This organization also offers scholarships to students who attend partner schools. For more information contact the National Commission for Cooperative Education at 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; (617) 373-3770.
AmeriCorps is a national service project that works with nonprofit organizations/ agencies and educational institutions to operate local community service programs. AmeriCorps volunteers have served across the country to address the most pressing education, public safety, human and environmental challenges facing our communities. Volunteers who have completed a term of service (generally 10 months to one year) are eligible for a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The award amount is tied to the maximum amount of the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant, which is currently $5,645. The award may be used to repay educational loans for those who have attended college or may be used for future educational costs by volunteers who have not yet attended college. AmeriCorps participants may also qualify for the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Income-Based Repayment Plan. As an added benefit, there are currently more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide that offer matching grant programs to students who are Segal AmeriCorps Education Award recipients.
For information about volunteer opportunities and benefits and a list of schools participating in the matching grant program visit www.americorps.gov, e-mail: email@example.com, call 800-942-2677, or contact the state or local project office.
Work for a Company that Pays College Costs
Many large corporations have tuition payment plans for their employees. Plans vary from company to company. Some firms will advance monies needed for tuition, others will reimburse costs after the student completes each course or semester. Reimbursements vary from 100 percent to a portion of the total tuition, with some reimbursements contingent on the employee/student’s final grade. In some cases, a company will pay only for courses directly related to the job.
When interviewing for a job, be sure to ask about the firm’s education funding plan.
Handicapped students who are eligible for routine help from the rehabilitation agency within their state are usually eligible for substantial financial assistance to pursue higher education. Such students should contact their rehabilitation counselor for more detailed information.
Financial Aid from the Military
The programs outlined below are available to those who enroll in or are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Some programs may also be available to a veteran’s spouse or dependent children.
The Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, also known simply as the Yellow Ribbon Program, is a provision of the Post–9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008. This program is designed to help veterans afford tuition at a college or university whose tuition and fee expenses exceed the highest in-state undergraduate tuition rate (the normal amount paid under the Post–9/11 GI Bill). By entering into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) a participating institution can contribute a specified dollar amount of those additional expenses and the VA will contribute a matching amount not to exceed 50 percent of the difference.
To be eligible for benefits under the Yellow Ribbon Program an individual must have served an aggregate period of active duty, after September 11, 2001, of at least 36 months. Benefits are payable for training/enrollment pursued on or after August 1, 2009.
Eligible veterans should note that participating colleges and universities choose the amount of tuition and fees that they will contribute as well as the number of slots available. Funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
Interested military personnel should visit www.gibill.va.gov or the school in which they are interested for more information.
Post–9/11 GI Bill
This is a new education benefit for individuals who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001. Personnel who wish to take advantage of this program must have served at least 90 aggregate days of active duty after September 11, 2001, still be on active duty, or honorably discharged or released. Personnel currently receiving benefits under another military education assistance program may elect to enroll in the Post–9/11 GI Bill but will no longer be eligible for the benefits offered by the previous program.
Under the Post–9/11 GI Bill the individual would be eligible to receive the cost of tuition and fees not to exceed the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution of higher education, a monthly housing allowance, and a maximum books and supplies allowance of $1,000. Some individuals may be eligible for a $500 relocation payment.
Recipients may receive up to 36 months of entitlement. Eligible individuals should also be aware that if you are a member of the Armed Forces on August 1, 2009 you may be able to transfer your benefits to a spouse or dependent child.
Interested military personnel should visit www.gibill.va.gov for more information.
Military Loan Repayment
Some students who borrow from one or more of the Federal Loan Programs (Perkins, Stafford, etc.) may have some or all of their loans repaid by the Department of Defense, depending on the specialty enlisted in, and the length of the enlistment.
Full-time military personnel can qualify to have their loans repaid by the military at the rate of one-third of the loan for each year of full-time duty served (maximum loan repayment is $65,000). Each branch of the military sets its own maximum amount.
Individuals interested in the various Military College Loan Repayment Programs are advised to check with their recruiter or visit www.todaysmilitary.com for more information.
The Air Force, Army, and Navy all have scholarship programs to help students who are interested in becoming officers in the service after graduation. Scholarships are awarded to entering college freshmen based on their high school grades, SAT scores, activities, etc. Scholarships are also awarded to college sophomores and juniors based on their performance in the ROTC program and grades in college. These scholarships pay for tuition, fees, books and laboratory expenses. In addition, scholarship holders receive $300–$500 per month during the 10 months of the school year depending on the recipient’s level in the ROTC curriculum. Members of ROTC units who are not scholarship holders receive a monthly allowance for the last two years of college. Of course, all students who are commissioned through ROTC programs must agree to spend a stipulated length of time in the service. For more detailed information, students should contact the recruiting office of the service in which they are interested.
Persons enlisting in the Air Force can take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by The Community College of the Air Force, as well as the Air Force’s 100 percent tuition assistance programs.