For decades, the military has helped active-duty service members, reserves, national guardsmen, and veterans attend school by offering educational assistance. The Montgomery GI bill provides a monthly stipend to service members pursuing higher education or training, and service members can receive these benefits for up to 36 months. Additionally, after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) created the Post-9/11 GI bill to offer service members additional educational assistance. With this bill, service members have up to 15 years to use their benefits, which include reimbursements for tuition and fees. After the creation of this bill, college enrollment among service members increased dramatically.
Service members have up to 15 years to use their benefits, which include reimbursements for tuition and fees.
According to a study conducted by the American Council on Education and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, approximately 68% of reserves receive academic financial aid. Similarly, 48% of active-duty service members receive aid, while fewer than 10% incur student loan debt thanks to generous financial aid packages. This page provides an in-depth exploration of the financial options available to service personnel and their family members. The healthcare industry, specifically public health service in the military, is a growing field that requires an advanced degree. As such, the military may cover the tuition of students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, while also offering military training and job placements.
Financial Aid Programs for Military and Veterans
The Montgomery GI Bill
The Montgomery GI Bill helps active-duty service members obtain financial assistance to pay for college, vocational training, on-the-job training, and certification. The bill is funded in part by service members who contribute $100 a month to the GI fund. Individuals who make this contribution may opt to pursue a public health service military career.
- What’s Covered: Service members can use these funds to pay for tuition and fees for undergraduate/graduate degree programs, entrepreneurship training, entrance exams, licensing and certification tests, high-tech training, and vocational training.
- Who’s Covered: The bill covers service members and veterans with at least two years of active service duty. Actively drilling reserves with a six-year obligation in the selected reserve may also qualify.
- How to Apply: After completing their minimum service obligations, applicants can apply online, in person at a VA regional office, at their school, or by mail.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays homage to veterans who served after Sept. 10, 2001. The Post-9/11 bill shortened the active-duty service requirements needed to qualify for benefits, while also extending benefits to the families of many fallen service members.
- What’s Covered: Eligible service members receive funding to cover tuition and fees, as well as a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend. The amount of funding depends on the length of time an applicant spent serving in the military.
- Who’s Covered: Service members with at least 36 months of active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, receive funding for tuition. Coverage is based on a sliding scale depending on an applicant’s period of active duty.
- How to Apply: To apply, applicants should contact the VA. The VA determines an individual’s payment plan and fee schedule based on their service record.
Yellow Ribbon Program
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a collaboration between the VA and participating colleges and universities. Service members studying at a private institution may not receive full tuition coverage under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In these instances, the Yellow Ribbon Program may cover extra tuition expenses at certain schools.
- What’s Covered: Students attending a private school or a public school as a nonresident may be responsible for tuition and fees that exceed the amount covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program may cover this difference.
- Who’s Covered: Only veterans entitled to the maximum benefit rate, which is determined by service requirements, or their designated transferees can receive this funding. Applicants should not currently be on active duty.
- How to Apply: Qualified applicants should submit an application to the VA and a statement claiming they plan on using their GI Bill entitlement. Students should also speak to their higher education institution to ensure that their school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
National Call to Service
The National Call to Service program is administered by the Department of Defense. This benefits program helps service members who hold military occupational specialties pay for higher education or additional training. The Secretary of Defense determines the specific service and eligibility requirements for this program, and benefits can be used in conjunction with those from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
- What’s Covered: Applicants can choose from several incentives, including a cash payment of $5,000, loan repayment up to $18,000, or an allowance equal to the three-year monthly Montgomery GI Bill active-duty rate for 12 months.
- Who’s Covered: After completing initial training, individuals must serve on active duty in a military occupational specialty for 15 months. After this, and without a break in service, these individuals must serve either an additional period of active duty (as determined by the Secretary of Defense) or a period of 24 months in the selected reserve. Any remaining service obligations must be carried out on active duty in the armed forces, in the selected reserve or individual ready reserve, or with AmeriCorps or any other national service group recognized by the Secretary of Defense.
- How to Apply: To apply for benefits, applicants can visit the VA’s website, a regional VA office, or speak to the VA certifying official at their school’s financial aid office.
Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance
The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance program was created to assist the dependents of wounded, injured, or deceased service members. Benefits allocation is carried out through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Through this program, dependents receive financial aid for various types of training. Participants can still receive benefits from other VA dependent programs.
- What’s Covered: This program covers up to 45 months of expenses for participants. Individuals receive a monthly stipend of $1,041, which can be used towards apprenticeships, flight school, undergraduate/graduate degree programs, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.
- Who’s Covered: The program helps dependents of disabled or deceased veterans who were injured while serving. Children of service members who died after Aug. 1, 2011, may qualify to receive additional benefits.
- How to Apply: Interested applicants should contact the VA to submit an application. The office provides information about the program and lets applicants know which entitlements they qualify for.
Scholarships for Military and Veterans
U.S. Army Scholarships
- Army ROTC Four-Year Scholarships
- Who Can Apply: Members of the Army ROTC can receive financial assistance through the ROTC’s scholarship program. Applicants must be 17-26 years old, hold a high school diploma or the equivalent earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA, and have an SAT score of at least 1,000. Program participants must agree to serve in the Army for at least four years.
- Amount: Full tuition and a yearly stipend of up to $5,000
- AMVETS' Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: AMVETS awards scholarships to active-duty military members in need of financial aid. To qualify, service members must be enrolled in an eligible program and must avoid defaulting on any student loans.
- Amount: $4,000 ($1,000 awarded annually over four years)
- Army Women's Foundation Legacy Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Female active-duty service members and their children can apply to receive aid for a certificate or degree program. For college and university legacy scholarships, applicants need to hold a 3.0 GPA or higher.
- Amount: $1,000-2,500
- Imagine America Military Award Program
- Who Can Apply: This program helps active-duty service members transition to civilian life by providing funds for them to pursue an education from a vocational college or technical school.
- Amount: $1,000
- The Military Officers Association of America Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Founded in 1948, this scholarship fund offers financial support to the children of active-duty service members, reserves, veterans, and the honorably discharged.
- Amount: Varies
U.S. Navy Scholarships
- The American Legion Auxiliary Non-Traditional Student Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: American Legion members returning to school or pursuing a degree later in life can apply for this award. Applicants should be American Legion members who have paid their dues for at least two years.
- Amount: $2,000
- Minority Serving Institution Scholarship Program
- Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to all Navy option applicants attending a historically Black college or university, high Hispanic enrollment school, or minority serving institution. Applicants must be nominated by the MSI committee and have qualifying ACT or SAT scores.
- Amount: Varies
- Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: The NROTC offers various scholarships to members pursuing an undergraduate degree. To qualify for this scholarship, NROTC members must meet basic physical and scholastic requirements, such as a minimum 2.0 GPA and a good-low score on their physical assessment.
- Amount: Full tuition and a monthly stipend
- Health Professions Scholarship Program - Navy
- Who Can Apply: Active-duty members of the Navy pursuing a degree in medicine or a medical-related field can apply for funding. This program is well suited for public health service military personnel.
- Amount: Full tuition and a $2,200 monthly stipend; some candidates may qualify for a $20,000 sign-on bonus
- United States Naval Academy
- Who Can Apply: To apply to the Naval Academy, applicants must be U.S. citizens with a valid social security number, unmarried with no dependents, and between the ages of 17-23. Participants must also agree to engage in five years of active-duty service upon graduation.
- Amount: 100% of tuition, room and board, and medical and dental care costs
U.S. Air Force Scholarships
- Air Force ROTC Scholarships
- Who Can Apply: Aspiring students can apply for full or partial tuition scholarships through the Air Force ROTC. Program participants must complete a 24-day field training course, general military and professional officer courses, and accept a commission as an Air Force officer and serve for at least four years on active duty.
- Amount: Varies
- The George and Vicki Muellner Foundation Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: The Air Force Association works with the Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings program to award funding to qualified cadets in need of financial aid.
- Amount: $5,000
- Pitsenbarger Award
- Who Can Apply: This grant is awarded to top-performing USAF students graduating from the Community College of the Air Force who plan to pursue a baccalaureate degree.
- Amount: $400
U.S. Marine Corps Scholarships
- Frederick C. Branch Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: This scholarship program is designated for NROTC members attending a historically black college or university. Eligible candidates must be high school graduates, at least 17 years old, and interested in becoming a Marine officer.
- Amount: Full tuition and a stipend
- Pedro Del Valle Leadership Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Individuals attending or planning to attend one of three Hispanic-serving institutions (i.e., California State University at San Marcos, University of New Mexico or San Diego State University) can apply for this award.
- Amount: Full tuition and monthly stipend
- NROTC Marine Option Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: NROTC members interested in attending Officer Candidates School can apply for this scholarship.
- Amount: Full tuition
National Guard Scholarships
- Dedicated Army National Guard Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Individuals involved in the Simultaneous Membership program (SMP) with a National Guard unit while in school can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens with a minimum 2.5 GPA and qualifying ACT/SAT scores. Following graduation, cadets begin a new military service obligation contract and serve eight years in the National Guard.
- Amount: Full tuition and a monthly allowance
- Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Individuals involved in the SMP with a National Guard unit while in school can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens with a minimum 2.5 GPA and qualifying ACT/SAT scores. They also must join the SMP of an ROTC unit on their campus. Following graduation, cadets begin a new military service obligation contract and serve eight years in the National Guard.
- Amount: Full tuition and a monthly allowance
- NGAUS AFBA Active Life Member Scholarships
- Who Can Apply: Active Life members of the National Guard Association of the United States and their dependents can apply for these funds. To be considered, applicants must submit their high school/college transcripts, an essay, and their ACT/SAT scores.
- Amount: $5,000
Coast Guard Scholarships
- Coast Guard Foundation Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: The Coast Guard Foundation created this scholarship for the children of active-duty, retired, or deceased service members and veterans.
- Amount: $1,000-5,000
- Captain Ernest W. Fox Perpetual Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Qualified active-duty Coast Guard and civil service employee personnel at the CG Aviation Logistic Center can apply for this scholarship; dependents of qualifying individuals may also be eligible. Scholarship funds can be applied to preparatory, collegiate, postgraduate, and/or professional and vocational education, as well as formal or informal training.
- Amount: Varies
Military Families Scholarships
- Colonel Aaron Burstein Memorial Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: This program is open to dependents of service members, reserves, and members of the National Guard. Dependent should be pursuing a two- or four-year degree at an accredited university. Application materials include an essay and a letter of recommendation
- Amount: Varies
- Mike and Gail Donley Spouse Scholarship
- Who Can Apply: Spouses of active-duty Air Force members or reserves enrolled in a degree program with a minimum GPA of 3.5 may qualify for funding.
- Amount: $2,500
- Leonardo DRS Guardian Scholarship Fund
- Who Can Apply: The children of National Guard members who died in an operational or training mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn can apply for funding to help cover the cost of tuition, room and board, fees, and books.
- Amount: Up to $25,000
Resources for Active Military and Veterans
- Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service: The U.S. Surgeon General leads this group of health professionals who work at all levels of the federal government to help people in underserved communities. Public health service military members can find helpful resources by visiting this website.
- The Army Nurse Corps Association: This association recognizes and connects nurses working in the armed services. Members gain access to information regarding scholarships and volunteer opportunities through the association’s online portal.
- SurgeonGeneral.gov: This website features the latest news and developments issued by the Surgeon General’s office. Visitors to this website can find the official Public Health Report and the Surgeon General’s Report.
- Indian Health Service: The health department developed a separate agency to help care for Native Americans; many public health service military personnel work with the Indian Health Service.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Department of Health is tasked with overseeing the wellbeing of all Americans through agencies and branches that provide food, healthcare, and other resources to citizens.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The CDC is a federal organization that works closely with several other agencies to study diseases and prevent and control outbreaks. Public health service military personnel work at the CDC while on active duty and after being discharged.