When students set about financing their education, they have several options. They can pay cash, use student loans, apply for scholarships, or win grants. Grants are a form of financial assistance that never need to be repaid. They can be enough to cover a semester's worth of books, incidental expenses such as fees for standardized tests, or they might finance an entire degree program.

Military grants typically come from the government as a thank-you for service or allow students to repay their educational costs with active duty service. Some colleges offer grants in the form of reduced tuition for students who have served. These reduced tuition rates can be compensated by a grant from the state government but might also be covered by the school alone.

Read More

Learn How Grants Can Help You With College Tuition


Each grant fund and program has its own set of criteria for recipients. In the case of military grants, most will require that the recipient be a current or former member of a branch of the US military. In fact, some grants will disburse only to certain branches. There are grants for Naval officers which excludes Marines and former members of the Coast Guard. There are even finer distinctions in that some grants are only for veterans of certain military campaigns or who served in specific companies.

Other grants are disbursed to the family of a soldier. To be eligible, recipients should be able to prove the relationship. Some may ask that the recipient not only prove the relationship but also that their service member served in a specific branch and on a certain campaign. For instance, there might be a grant that specifies family members of Air Force intelligence officers who served in Afghanistan, post-9/11.

Available Grants

Montgomery & Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Montgomery Bill is a renewed version of the original GI Bill that was enacted in the 1940s. Returning veterans, who have served at least two years in the military, can use this military grant to return to school and meet the demands of civilian life. To qualify for funds, the grant asks that soldiers volunteer $100 per month for their first year of service. In return, soldiers are welcome to reap the benefits of this military grant program.

When veterans enroll in full-time education, they are eligible to receive a monthly stipend that they can apply toward tuition, books, housing, or any expense they deem worthy. Part-time students receive less per month, but over a longer period of time.

Soldiers who have served at least 90 days in the time following September 10, 2001 are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This military grant provides up to 36 months’ worth of education benefits. These benefits may be extended if the veteran chooses a college or university in the Yellow Ribbon Program. The YRP extension is not guaranteed, and is often offered on a first-come, first-served basis, but it can be of great help to veteran-scholars.

Spouse and Dependents Education Assistance Program

Not only can officers and enlisted soldiers receive education benefits for themselves, but so can their families. These grant programs include the loved ones of both active and inactive soldiers. There are a variety of programs that cover the dependents of soldiers who are permanently disabled, deceased, or even able-bodied. There is also a special scholarship available for the survivors of soldiers who fell after 9/11.

Marine Deployed Education Program

Through this program, current service members can both serve abroad, remain on active duty, and advance their learning in college courses. When a marine is serving, they can take college courses through Park University or Central Texas College. The program provides tuition assistance so long as participants maintain a suitable GPA.

The program is intended to proceed on a mail-order basis, but provisions may be made for online education, provided that the soldier has access to the internet and a computer.

The program's chief strength is that it allows active duty Marines the ability to pursue higher education without having to leave the Corps. Provided that they have the time and resources to study and complete their assignments, distance learning can be a great way to make use of down time while loved ones are far away.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program

The Coast Guard assists its members with the Mutual Assistance Program in times of emergency. This program helps with housing, supports educational goals, and provides for medical or other essential financial needs. To these ends, CGMA provides loans, grants, counseling, referrals, and other assistance to qualifying individuals. This program is available to active and retired Coast Guard members, but also to civilian Coast Guard employees, reservists, auxiliary members, Public Health Service Officers, and to the families that survive deceased Coast Guard members.

Air Force Military Grants

Air Force Tuition Assistance Program

The Air Force Tuition Assistance Program is available for Airmen who wish to pursue their education while still on active duty. Airmen may wish to pursue a degree in their personal time provided that they meet certain qualifications, including being able to meet the Air Force's standards for physical fitness. The schools themselves must also be of high caliber. To receive an Airman's funds, colleges and universities must be fully accredited and be in compliance with the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU affirms that all coursework be of a high caliber, among other things.

The program covers tuition costs up to $4,500 per year provided that Airmen in the program maintain good grades. Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 during an undergraduate program and a 3.0 if in graduate school.

Air Force Aid Society

The Air Force Aid Society is collection of programs designed to help Airmen and their families when they encounter an emergency, need support for their families, or when their families wish to pursue higher education. The AFAS provides Air Force families with loans, scholarships, and military grants to help them pursue their dreams.

The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant is the centerpiece of the AFAS's educational program. The Arnold Grant helps families based on financial need and the award ranges from $500 to $4,000. Families who need educational support must first apply to this grant program in order to be eligible for the rest of the AFAS educational support programs, such as the merit scholarship and the supplemental loan program.

The AFAS Merit Scholarship is given to at least 10 students each year. Recipients who show outstanding GPAs receive $5,000. Applications must include high school transcripts and an essay that discusses an assigned topic. This scholarship is not based on need but is solely bestowed on outstanding students, independent of their financial situation. Thus, a student might not receive an Arnold Grant, which is based on financial need, but can receive the AFAS Merit Scholarship.

The supplemental loan program is also available to the families of active or retired Airmen. These loans are no-interest loans intended to assist students cover incidental educational fees, pay for supplies, and help pay for books. The maximum amount available per student is $1,000.

Pell Grants

The Federal Pell Grant Program is not a loan but a government educational assistance program that does not require repayment. It can cover up to $5,775 of educational costs each year with the award dependent upon financial need, costs of the school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and whether the student intends to complete a full academic year, or less. While the program is aimed at low-income undergraduate students, certain graduate students may also receive a Pell Grant and military members or veterans are welcome to apply.

To receive a Federal Pell Grant, students must be enrolled in a participating academic or vocational school. Need is based on a formula ratified by Congress and funds are only available to those who have not yet earned a baccalaureate or professional degree. To start the process, students need to first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. If you are a teacher or planning on teaching, you may also qualify for a TEACH grant.

Over the last several decades, more women have been joining the armed forces of the different military branches. If you are a woman in the military and are looking to pursue a career in STEM or owning a small business, there are additional grant opportunities specifically designed for women. A military woman pursuing a teaching career can actually qualify for up to 3 different grants (Military, Teach and Women Grants). Each of these grants will have their own qualifications and requirements.