Financial Aid Resources for Military Families


It takes a great amount of dedication and willpower to keep a military family intact. The constant uncertainty and long periods of separation require an enormous amount of trust between spouses, and those left behind must find a way to keep things together, although they are falling apart on the inside. How would I know? I was married to a U.S. Marine for 12 years. Unlike a regular day job, our military members put their lives on the line every day; even when they are stationed at home, a simple training exercise can have serious consequences. They spend months separated from their families, relying on letters, email and an occasional phone call to keep them together. They give everything to ensure we are all safe from harm and receive very little in return. For those who are not officers, it can be a struggle to make ends meet, let alone save any money for college. Fortunately, there are some resources specifically designated to help veterans, active duty members and their families. Here are just some of the many scholarships and tuition assistance programs available to those who have served our country.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

One of the best resources for locating financial aid for military personnel and their families is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. Active duty members and veterans can determine their eligibility for the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, as well as review information on the Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program. Veterans, or their designated transferees, can also check to see which colleges provide additional financial assistance through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Marine Corps ScholarshipsMarine Corps Scholarship Foundation

The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation provides financial support to the sons and daughters of active duty, reserve and veterans from the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. Navy Corpsman who served with a U.S. Marine unit. The organization also provides additional scholarships, valued up to $30,000 each, for children of fallen soldiers through its Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program. A limited number of scholarships are also provided to the grandchildren of specific Marine divisions and/or associations.

Pat Tillman Foundation

Each spring, the Pat Tillman Foundation awards several scholarships for service members (active and veteran) and/or their spouses. The average award amount is $11,000 per year and may be renewed, if the minimum grade point average is met. Recipients may use the funding for undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degree programs at a U.S. college or university.

Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation

The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation is determined to help all military families pay for college without the use of student loans or depleting their savings. The Foundation accepts applications for assistance throughout the year, and typically approves requests within three to four weeks. Each request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and funding may be used to cover tuition, room and board, books, computers and living expenses, as well as other typical college costs.

Military ScholarshipsThanksUSA

Dependent children (age 24 and younger) of U.S. military personnel, or the spouses of U.S. military personnel, may be eligible to receive an award up to $3,000 to help cover college tuition and fees. In addition to their general scholarship program, ThanksUSA also provides a $4,000 scholarship through its partnership with Northern Virginia Community College. ThanksUSA also provides 50 scholarships specifically for military spouses through its Educational Support Scholarships, which are funded by Kaplan University (registration at Kaplan is not required). One military spouse will also receive a full scholarship to cover the costs of an online degree program through Kaplan.

Fisher House Foundation

The Fisher House Foundation provides a minimum of one $1,500 scholarship at every commissary where qualified applications are received. The program is open to sons and daughters of active duty, reserve/guard, or retired military commissary customers. All applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. This year, 670 students received a combined total of $1,005,000 for college. The application for the 2014-2015 scholarship program will be available in December.

Scholarships for VeteransAMVETS

American Veterans (AMVETS) awards several scholarships to veterans, active military, their sons/daughters and/or grandchildren. Dependents and grandchildren of deceased veterans are also eligible to apply. Six (6) $4,000 scholarships are offered to high school seniors, three (3) $4,000 awards are designated for veterans, and one (1) $1,000 scholarship is available to a Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) high school senior. In addition to these opportunities, AMVETS also provides several other awards, including the Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship, AMVETS National Scholarship and the University of Phoenix Scholarship.

The American Legion

A variety of scholarships are provided by the American Legion, including the American Legion Legacy Scholarship, which provides funding to dependents of active duty military members who were killed in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001. Those who play on an American Legion baseball team are also eligible for up to $5,000 in college scholarships (deadline July 15). Through its partnership with Samsung, several large scholarships are awarded to high school juniors who complete either a Boys State or Girls State program and are direct descendants of a wartime veteran. Although there are several programs offered through the individual service branches and organizations, those interested in attending college should not rely solely on these programs to cover their expenses. Service personnel and their families should utilize other resources, such as online scholarship searches and college financial aid officers to find other sources of potential funding. Local businesses, churches and other civic organizations may also provide scholarships. Do you know of a military scholarship program that isn’t listed here? Share it with me in the comments section.

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