What options are available to a vet who needs to pay for college?
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Veteran College Funding
I'm trying to figure out how to pay for college. I've been on my own since I was 18 and recently completed 5 1/2 years in the Marines. Now, I'm putting a great effort towards my education, but the costs are staggering. Next year, I want to go to school full time, but I have to quit my current job to do that. My parents have never given anything to me and I doubt they would pay a year or two worth of tuition. Any ideas?
Options for Veterans
How do you do on standardized tests? Some colleges will let you skip freshman classes in math, English, history, etc. if you score an acceptable score on CLEP, ACT, or other tests. Check with the colleges that you are interested in to see what tests they accept.
Also, community colleges provide a lower-cost option for getting those first two years out of the way. If you're past that point or not interested, check into tuition-remission programs offered to college or university employees. Some start immediately upon employment and even offer tuition-remission to part-time employees, although each program differs depending on the school's policy.
Also look at free scholarship search services online, such as fastweb.com, or check out the big blue book of scholarships and grants at your local library. Also, ask your college/university's financial aid office about any school-based scholarships for which you could apply.
Most important, get your federal financial aid application (FAFSA) in as soon as possible to take advantage of any federal or state need-based grants available.
Veteran's Benefits for College
When you were in the Marine Corps, did you participate in the College Fund and/or the Montgomery G.I. Bill programs? If so, the monthly check that will arrive in your mailbox will go a long way toward making ends meet while you're a student. About 14 years ago, when my husband separated from the Army and went to school through the GI Bill, he received about $700 each month directly to us, not the school. I am quite sure that amount has gone up by now. Check to be sure.
Even if you don't have any military educational benefits, consider going to the VA (Veterans Affairs) Representative at your college to see what perks you might get just for having served in the military at all. You may or may not get any breaks on tuition, but it's worth a shot.
If you have any documented disability with VA (you probably met with them when you were in the process of separating from the military), your disability may get you a discount on tuition and/or fees.
I have both a B.A. and M.A. and have never paid more than $1 per credit hour. My undergraduate was earned at Berea College in Kentucky. They do not expect students to pay the tuition out-of-pocket. They have a unique program that allows all students to work part-time for the college and earn not only a paycheck but also their tuition, room and board. There are several other private colleges around the country that do this as well.
My graduate degree was earned at a state university, and completed part-time while I was a full-time employee. Most state universities have tuition reimbursement programs where employees can take up to 15 credit hours per year for only $1 an hour (on average, that is five classes per year). It isn't the same as being a full-time student, but it is cheaper! The great thing is that this benefit generally applies to all employees, not just those in academic positions. I can also transfer this benefit to my husband and children.
Distance Learning Makes College Affordable
I would recommend a book called Accelerated Distance Learning: The New Way to Earn Your College Degree in the Twenty-First Century
by Brad Voeller. Brad earned his four-year accredited college degree in less than six months, for less than $5,000, using the techniques in his book. For the purchase price of $20, you can glean many ideas to save time and money in earning your degree.
Co-Op Education Funds College
Paying for college can be overwhelming, particularly if you don't want to owe your life "to the company store" when you graduate. Consider co-oping. Depending on your major, it can be a great way to pay for school and get invaluable experience. I attended Auburn University, which has an outstanding co-op program. Co-operative Education is going to school a term and then working a term for a company in your field. I am a computer programmer. I earned a four-year degree and graduated with 2.5 years of real experience. I paid for my college as I went. There wasn't a whole lot of play money, but there were no student loans due at graduation. It's a great way to pay for college and know if the field you have selected is right for you.
Options for Veterans
Being a former Marine makes paying for college very easy for you. If you had the GI Bill, look into getting those benefits started now that you want to start school. Also, some states (Pennsylvania is one) will pay half the cost of tuition to a public college or university in the state for an honorably discharged veteran if you are a resident of that state.
Don't overlook joining the reserve branch of any service or the Army or Air National Guard in your state. Many states Air and Army Guard systems will give you the reserve component version of the GI Bill and will also pay some or all of your college tuition to a public state school or the average of state tuition to a private or out-of-state school. Ohio pays 100% to Ohio public colleges and the average of that to a private college or out-of-state school. You have to be duty position qualified and commit for a six-year enlistment. Most Marine Corps job specialties convert to Army Guard specialties, making you immediately eligible to start using tuition.
Investigate College Funding Options
Talk to a financial aid officer at your college. These people are trained to help you find money for school. There are all kinds of grants, loans, educational work/study packages, and scholarships available. Most people just don't know what is available. You may qualify for a federal work/study program, where you work on campus for a specified number of hours per week and draw a salary as part of your loan package. Most colleges and universities also have deferred payment plans available. Since you have been on your own since the age of 18 and have been self-supporting, your own income (not your parents') will be taken into consideration for loans and grants.
Once you are admitted, check into the CLEP testing program at your college. This is a testing program, where you can take a test in a specified subject for a set fee (usually around $65 for the test) and get college credit for your score. Also, remember that going to a state college as an in-state student is always much cheaper than attending an out-of-state or private college. There's a lot of money available, and a lot of different ways to get an education. You just have to investigate all the possibilities.
Linda in Murray, KY
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